Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 March 2021 from Viper Books
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…
I am very impressed by the canny choices that Viper Books are making. They are quickly carving out a place in my library with a strong and varied range of must read books, characterised by strong and imaginative writing.
The Last House on Needless Street is one such book. A properly named psychological thriller, it is the very definition of layered. Immaculate storytelling, interlaced with beautifully constructed plotting provides the base layers for an atmospheric, eerie tale that had me hanging on every word.
This is an insidious book, it draws you in, letting you believe that it is a conventional tale, one perhaps that is not dissimilar to other crime novels you have read, but the deeper you read, the more you realise that there is nothing at all conventional about this story.
Ward’s characters are convincing and very well drawn and her descriptive abilities are such that at least one of her characters makes your skin crawl and give you nightmares. This story is told by multiple voices, at least one of them unconventional, which gave me pause for thought – but bear with it; it all makes sense in the long run.
An expert at making the reader feel they are constantly walking through shifting sands, the dark woods at the end of the road that is Needless Street sit like a brooding dark mass, threatening to reveal everything, unsettling, yet giving nothing away until they are ready.
Two characters are central to the story. Ted is a maladjusted adult and single father to Lauren, a child who visits his ramshackle house occasionally. Dee is the sister of a missing girl. She feels the police have let her down in the hunt for her sister’s abductor and is on a quest to find her sister where they have failed. Driven by guilt she seems to be the most obviously straightforward character, but her driven quest is obsessive and there is darkness around her that never lifts.
Catriona Ward expertly leads us into chilling territory, keeping us off balance, showing us some real moments of terror yet never quite revealing the whole picture.
I love the way she keeps the reader constantly out of kilter, never quite sure who and what to believe, constantly questioning what is going on. There’s real skill and sharpness here and it shines through.
Verdict: Dark, original and disturbing this is also a book with enormous poignancy, heart-breaking moments and real tragedy. It’s ultimately very haunting and deeply thought –provoking and will sit in my brain for a long time to come. Absolutely recommended.
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Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. Her debut Rawblood won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Little Eve won the Shirley Jackson Award, was a Guardian best book of 2018 and won the Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. She lives in London and Devon.
Photo c. Robert Hollingworth