Published by Viking Books
Publication date – 17 August 2017 (ebook), 2 November 2017 (paperback)
Source – review copy
Whose story do YOU believe?
Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.
So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.
Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.
Read more on the Penguin website.
Jack and Sydney can hardly believe their luck when their offer on their dream house is accepted. So they have to take the house as seen, and so it’s full of the previous owner’s possessions. And so what if it isn’t actually Jack’s ideal home. As long as Sydney is happy that’s the main thing. Then Jack discovers something in the attic, something that shouldn’t be there. And things begin to unravel drastically.
I have to admit that when I started to read this book it didn’t grab my complete attention. But I continued to read and found that I wanted to find out more. The story is told from the view point of Jack and Sydney, each chapter headed with one the character’s names, a witness statement in a more fluid and unofficial form. This style of narration worked well, I liked gleaning information from different viewpoints to round the story out. It also allowed the reader to get to know the characters more. There were issues with both Sydney and Jack. Products of their upbringings, Sydney was standoffish, and prickly but also passionate about certain situations, including helping Elsie, a young girl she befriends. Sydney sees herself reflected in Elsie and wants to change history by helping her. Jack is more needy, more keen to please, and is devoted to Sydney.
As the story progresses more is revealed about Sydney’s past and the physical abuse she suffered as a child. The reader is guided through a series of events from the past and slowly shown how they collide with the present. I had guessed how things would proceed but it was interesting to see them played out. The murder doesn’t happen immediately and indeed is just a small part of the story. I thought this worked well, the death was a necessary part of the tale but doesn’t overshadow the bigger picture.
There were some things that seemed obvious, or obvious to me, that lessened the effect. That said this is purely a personal thing. This book has been described as spooky though I didn’t find it as such. I’m not a fan of horror for example, not because I don’t like being scared, but I’m too sensible. I get fed up with characters going down a smoky dark alley instead of towards the town and help for example. So when a scene in the novel depicted Jack investigating a noise downstairs, I just thought ‘why doesn’t he just put the big light on?’ That said, there are many things in here that aren’t as expected, such as what is found in the attic – and I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it. So, in all honesty, I’m glad that I didn’t find the novel spooky.
I liked the writing style, sometimes jovial, sometimes serious. This and chapter layout meant for me that I found myself reading the novel quite quickly, the chapters lending themselves to the justification of ‘just one more’. There are clues aplenty in each person’s narrative and also in what each may omit to write down. I also have to say I really liked the ending. It finished exactly as I think it should have.
Reading this back it may sound like I didn’t enjoy this novel but I did. I’ve heard this book described as a marmite book; you’ll either love it or loathe it. I like to be different. I didn’t love it but I certainly didn’t loathe it. I liked it. My enjoyment grew the more I read, and towards the end I was eager to get back to it. I found it an interesting and entertaining read. And if you read for entertainment and the book you are reading entertains, then job done.
About the author
Simon Lelic is the author of three previous novels: Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy Debut Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012). The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.