Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward @Catrionaward @ViperBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 April 2023 from Viper Books
PP: 352
ISBN-13:  978-1800810976

My thanks to Viper Books for an advance copy for review

Writers are monsters. We eat everything we see…

In a windswept cottage overlooking the sea, Wilder Harlow begins the last book he will ever write. It is the story of his childhood companions and the shadowy figure of the Daggerman, who stalked the New England town where they spent their summers. Of a horror that has followed Wilder through the decades. And of Sky, Wilder’s one-time friend, who stole his unfinished memoir and turned it into a lurid bestselling novel, The Sound and the Dagger.

Looking Glass Sound is a bit of horror genius wrapped in a literary tribute and dusted with meta-fiction. It is a parcel to be unwrapped with care; a delicious puzzle to piece together telling a horror story that never really ends.

We begin with a tribute. We are on the edge of the cliff in Whistler Bay looking out at the wild Maine seascape. 16 year old Wilder is a strange boy. Pale, with large ‘bug’ eyes, he has no friends and is miserable at school. He is staying at his late uncle’s house with his parents who do nothing but argue – except when his father disappears for long periods at a time.

Then Wilder meets Nat and Harper and for the first time he finds the bonds of friendship. This, then, is a coming of age story set beside the bleak and angry sea, under which very bad things lie.

Very Stephen King.  But this is also a book about the act of writing; about who can tell a story and whether the stories belong to those who experience them, or are better told by those who can place some objectivity between events and those to whom they happened.

We follow Wilder from those days of early friendship through the horrors of The Daggerman, a serial killer who first takes Polaroids of his victims, posing them while they sleep with a dagger at their throat or ear before taking them and then sending the families their photograph.

Wilder helped to expose the true horrors of The Daggerman and it has haunted him ever since, alongside what it did to the only true friends he has ever had.

In college he tries to write about it. A memoir that he desperately needs to write, but which he can’t find the words for. His notes and the news clippings from that time keep him calm. They are his solace when he can’t sleep.

His college roommate Sky Montague becomes a close friend.  A somewhat pretentious young man who carries Proust ad writes in green ink. If he used a computer to write, it would surely be in comic sans.  Sky helps Wilder to get his emotions out and encourages him to write and to face some of his demons – in one case literally. But Wilder is betrayed by one he trusts the most.

So Wilder decides he will write the real story and in the process he will expose Sky for the fraudulent storyteller that he was. He is still hurting from Sky’s betrayal and from losing what he believed was a real love. But Wilder’s eyesight is failing and although he finds a way to put Sky into his story, he fears that he is losing his mind. He keeps seeing a woman drowning in the cove – a woman no-one else can see. Then notes in green ink start appearing in the periphery of his vision. What is going on?

Verdict: Looking Glass Sound is a multi-layered story with some truly horrific elements and an intricate plot. It has some wonderful characters but what makes it so special is the way that it creates massive empathy for the characters while treating writing as the real monster. One story told in different ways by different people. Who really owns a story?  This one is slippery; it keeps changing, like a dynamic entity. The full story will not become clear until the end and even then it will surprise you and break your heart. It is a beautifully vivid horror story, with real depth and full of wonderful imagery you want to get lost in. This is literary fiction wrapped in horror and it is such a deliciously dark read. I loved it.

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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.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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