Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 January 2019 from Sphere
What she can’t see can hurt her I have this dream. In it, I’m in the house and it’s dark and I know someone’s in there with me Even though I can’t see them . . . For Sarah and Patrick, family life has always been easy. But when Sarah’s mother dies, it sends Sarah into a downwards spiral. Knowing they need a fresh start, Patrick moves the family to the beachside house he grew up in. But there is a catch: while their new home carries only happy memories for Patrick, to everyone else it’s known as the Murder House – named for the family that was killed there. Patrick is adamant they can make it perfect again, though with their children plagued by nightmares and a constant sense they’re being watched, Sarah’s not so sure. Because the longer they live in their ‘dream home’, the more different her loving husband becomes . . . A chilling psychological thriller about dark family dysfunction and the secrets that haunt us, The Woman in the Dark will captivate fans of B. A Paris, Clare Mackintosh and Stephen King’s The Shining.
I wasn’t at all sure about picking up The Woman in the Dark. Something about books with The Woman In –or The Woman At – that instinctively makes me wary. But Lucy Dauman had been kind enough to send it to me and the blurb did look different to anything I had read recently, so I dived in, and I am so glad I did.
The Woman in the Dark is the story of Patrick and Sarah Walker and their two children, Joe and Mia, both of whom are at a ‘difficult’ age. To all intents and purposes the marriage is a happy one, though the couple have never managed to move from their starter home which is now a little cramped.
Patrick comes home one day with the news that his old family home, a large Victorian property, is up for sale. Interest in the house is not likely to be high as it was the scene of a tragic triple murder and is known locally as ‘The Murder House’.
It is here that we first start to see the cracks in Sarah and Patrick’s marriage. What Patrick wants, he is relentless in making sure he gets. Sarah, who we quickly learn may not be the most reliable of narrators, especially following the recent death of her mother, allows herself to be persuaded but neither she nor the children are really sure about this move and the house itself is far from the pleasure palace that Patrick remembers.
In fact the house begins to take on the role of a character itself. The walls tell their own story and the violence that occurred there seems to linger like a creaking poltergeist, disturbing, haunting and getting into the cracks in Sarah’s mind. Whether extreme violence and cruelty can change the character of bricks and mortar or whether Sarah’s fragile mental health is giving way is not clear, but something is very wrong indeed.
This is a family that has many secrets and it is those secrets which will ultimately be the catalyst for a number of acts of self-destruction. The Woman in the Dark is a dark and intriguing read. Fast paced, with lots of interconnecting threads, I did manage to work out the direction of travel, but that in no way detracts from a book that is both thought provoking and really very creepy.
Verdict: A chilling, tension fuelled read to keep you awake at nights wondering what’s under the bed…
Vanessa Savage lives by the sea in South Wales with her husband and two daughters.
She started out writing women’s fiction but soon realized she wanted her characters to kill each other rather than kiss each other…
Turning to (fictional) crime, she now writes psychological thrillers.