Violet by Scott Thomas

Posted On 31 October 2019

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VioletViolet turned out to be a different book to the one I expected – which is absolutely on me because having read and loved Kill Creek so very much I confess I barely even glanced at the synopsis for Violet, I just wanted to read it and of course I was expecting another horror.  Violet is quite a different style really, much more creepy and insidious, a psychological horror that takes it’s time in laying out the groundwork.  Whilst I may not have loved Violet as much as Kill Creek it does an excellent job of showcasing Scott Thomas’s writing chops in fact without his amazing alchemy with words I suspect I might have put this book down in the first half but as it was, even with the slow start, he had me hooked.

The story sets out with Kris and her daughter Sadie as they finish their long drive to the family’s vacation home at Lost Lake,  Tragedy has struck Kris’s family for the second time in her life, her daughter is traumatised and barely speaks and Kris has made the decision to spend a few months at the lake, enjoying the water, soaking up the sun and trying to revive both herself and her daughter.  Unfortunately, things get off to a shaky start.  Upon arrival the house is barely inhabitable which comes as a surprise for Kris.  She may not have visited since her childhood but she believed her father paid for its maintenance and in fact rented the house out as a holiday home.  Apparently not.  Let me be plain, the place is something of a wreck and nature has started to claim back the space.

However, after the initial shock, Kris makes the decision to stay and put her DIY skills to the test, picturing the place revamped with herself and Sadie spending future years on vacation there and at first the idea seems to be going down well.  The two are getting on and Sadie seems to be slowly opening up a little but then things begin to slowly change, seamlessly almost.  Noises in the house, unexpected neighbours across the lake who seem to be watching the two and slightly strange remarks from the locals whenever Kris and Sadie visit town.   Little things that taken by themselves can be brushed off instead start to mount up into something bigger.  Kris starts to recall more of her childhood vacations and they’re not always the sweetest memories.  Her mother died many years ago of cancer and her last months were spent at the lake.  Of course Kris has whitewashed a lot of those memories out remembering instead all the good times but slowly she’s beginning to recall the past and it’s not all rosy.

On top of this Sadie has started to spend a lot of time alone.  Undoubtedly she’s come out of her shell, laughing and running around the house but does it sometimes sound like she’s talking to herself?

Anyway, I’m not going to give anything away about the plot.  Read it for yourself instead but, I will say that you need to be patient with the first half of the book.  There’s a lot of cleaning and DIY’ing while Kris is sprucing the place up and it has a repetitious feel to it which having had a chance to consider things more I think was deliberate on the part of the author.  Maybe to lull you into a false sense of security, maybe also to really drive home how oblivious Kris was to the changes occurring around her until things were really set in motion.  It’s difficult to say what the intention is.  There are some stunning moments that really chilled me, a shadow behind a door, it’s just a shadow, but did it seem to move.  The sort of thing that you can imagine thinking yourself but then also talking yourself out of.  The only problem with it all is that these moments become a little bit swallowed up with Kris, cleaning, hammering, drilling and sanding.  Like I said, I think the idea was to show, slowly but surely, that the two characters were in fact spending very little time together.  That Kris was so focused on the house itself that she’d almost abandoned Sadie in some respects, and like Kris, it didn’t really occur to me just how much things had changed because I was so busy reading about her everyday chores.  I just wish (I know, if wishes were horses right) but, yes, I can’t help thinking that this could have been tightened up a little so that the moments of shock felt a bit more dramatic and their impact lasted a little longer but at the same time, now I’m writing this review and really considering it, seriously, I think the author wanted you to feel the mundaneness of what Kris was doing, to feel how absorbed she’d become and how little she was aware of what was taking place around her – it’s absolutely the way that he made me feel.

So slight reservations aside what else can I tell you.

The writing, as I mentioned above is so good.  I love reading this author, well, I’m two books in and I would say is writing is confident and powerful.  He has the ability to make you think and anticipate so even when the most dull things are taking place your mind is racing ahead reading meaning into things and trying to second guess the outcome.  Even the words used here and there feel suggestive to me – although I’m sure that’s just my own oddity.  The title itself, Violet, it’s not a far cry from ‘violent’.  Lost Lake – sounds very ominous.  I don’t know, just little things that create a certain suggestiveness – to me at least.

The characters.  Kris is definitely what you call an unreliable narrator.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s had some terrible experiences and slowly most of them will be revealed to you but at the same time this also shows how she’s suppressed her own memories and has a false sense of happy times that maybe isn’t quite so accurate.  On top of that she seems to be becoming ever more dependent on alcohol and drugs to get her through the days and nights which leaves her feeling sluggish and at times unable to recall details.

The setting.  Well the house and lake are almost like a character themselves.  They feel creepy and in fact you feel like you’re in a constant state of suspense just waiting to breathe.  The nearby town is also very intriguing.  Reliant on tourism things have happened that have brought the place low.  There’s a sort of hushed feeling of secrecy, as though people are afraid to talk and almost a forced joviality that is starkly out of place and only surface deep.  Again, I won’t go into the details as they’re best discovered during the read.

In terms of criticisms – well the only thing I have is the pacing issues I already mentioned.  Seriously, you need to be patient with this one – that’s the best advice I can give. Or read quickly during the first half.  The story really gathers momentum and the ending is brilliant so I think it’s worth it.

I think my only regret with this book is that I rushed into it expecting an insane and blood soaked horror (because, Kill Creek people).  If I could go back to the start of the read, adjust my expectations and not be in a rush to discover just what’s going on then maybe I would have enjoyed the first half of the story a lot more and just savoured the build and the delicious writing.  That’s my advice to you, this is a book with a lot of psychological build up and a scary ending and it’s a book that needs a little patience, read it and absorb all the nuances and suggestions along the way.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

 

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Posted On 7 December 2017

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Kill Creek was initially a book that I wanted to read for Halloween, and I must say it would have been absolutely perfect.  As it was the best laid plans didn’t quite work out, that being said this book is a great read for this time of the year with the dark nights, in fact if you enjoy horror I’m pretty certain you can be chilled by this book on any given month of the year.  In fact if you’re easily scared you might prefer the lighter nights.

Horror is one of those cateogories of reads that can go horribly wrong for me.  I don’t want too much blood and viscera, bodies being torn to pieces or other atrocities.  I want to be scared and also surprised and Kill Creek managed to fulfil all those criteria for me and on top of that provided a downright bone chilling ghost story, the sort where you want to hide behind a cushion – although can anybody explain why or how that really helps.

We start off with an introduction to our main character Sam McGarver.  Sam is an author of horror books.  He seems to be having something of a blip in his writing and is currently lecturing whilst trying to give off the impression that he’s in the process of drawing up his next novel.  Sam receives a mysterious invitation to take part in an interview on the creepiest night of the year, Halloween.   The interview will take place in one of the most notoriously haunted houses in the country and unbeknownst to Sam, three other horror writers have been invited to take part.  Basically this is a publicity stunt dreamt up by Justin Wainwright, the man behind a website known as WrightWire.  Wainwright is hellbent on stirring up a frenzy of visitors to his website and has concocted the idea of an interview with four famous horror writers, in a haunted house – who knows what will happen!

What worked really well for me in this story were a number of things.

Firstly the characters.  We have four very different authors and their own egos and feelings of insecurity.  They come together in a way that creates a wonderful feeling of uncertainty and just plain old paranoia. Thomas does a great job of giving them all individual personalities and bringing them to life quite vividly.  There’s also Wainwright.  Ruthlessly calculating, he’s hoping for a showdown and comes across as arrogant and self serving.  Then we have the final character of the piece.  The house.  This place has a terrible history. It lies derelict, off the beaten track in the Kansas countryside.  For years people have been too scared to approach apart from the odd child on a dare and now it is almost forgotten.

Secondly the tempo of the book.  It’s relentless and perfectly pitched.  We have an almost old fashioned feel start, a brief introduction to each of the characters before they come together for the evening almost in the fashion of Then There Were None.  Each of them seems to be harbouring some personal issue or fear that helps to crank up the tension.  At first, as a reader you’re just plain old worried about the house and what it’s going to throw at you but Thomas seems to lull you into this sense of security, a warm fire, good food and drink, cosy lighting.  You forget to be afraid.  The interview takes place and everyone goes to bed.  I don’t want go into the other issues but the book takes an unexpected turn after this point and it’s anything but cosy.

Finally the style, I love the way the book develops from an almost classic horror that taps into your psyche to something that becomes almost predictably and comfortingly  haunting but then swiftly moves down the path of out and out twisted horror. It’s gripping stuff and the writing is good, it just keeps you completely until the very last chapter.

I definitely have no hesitation in recommending this book.  It had me sitting tense and occasionally looking over my shoulder but more than that it made me want to shout at the characters – just like you do in a good horror film.  It sounds a bit trite or cliched but you know you’re scared when you’re shouting instructions at characters in a book or film.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  the above is my own opinion.