The British Fantasy Awards were handed out over the weekend and Adam Nevill's recently released No One Gets Out Alive won for best horror! Readers, this book scared the ever living crap out of me so of course, with this being the week leading up to Halloween, I wanted more. Boy did I get what I asked for.
When Catherine is brought in to value M. H. Mason's estate, it's a dream come true. Her first taste of this treasure trove is a peek at a pristine collection of antique dolls Catherine knows will fetch a small fortune at auction. But it's when she learns that some of Mason's rare and much sought after taxidermy is up for grabs that she realizes just how much of a boon this will be to her career.
But first she has to get past Mason's eccentric niece. The woman seems determined to lead Catherine on, forcing her to play out some strange waiting game before she'll even sign Catherine's contract. At first, it's just a small annoyance - a rude old woman set in her ways. But when she insists Catherine stay at the house during the process, things take a much more sinister turn. Now it's all Catherine can do to escape with her sanity still intact!
The Red House is probably now on my list of creepiest old mansions just behind Crimson Peak and Bliss House! (We can throw the Overlook in there too even though it's a hotel.) Located just outside of a seemingly abandoned village in the middle of nowhere, Red House has no phone, no internet, and very little in the way of outside contact. And at first Catherine thinks this likely the cause of her hostess' odd behavior.
Catherine has her own demons to battle. She's regularly fighting off overwhelming anxiety and paranoia that she's been working for years with a therapist to deal with. Most of that stems, though, from a childhood of being bullied and the disappearance of her best friend. Coincidentally, the Red House is located in the vicinity of the town where Catherine spent her first six years - the very same town where said friend and a handful of other children vanished without a trace.
All of that is to say that Catherine's got enough wits about her to realize that she may to be prone to overreacting. Which, unfortunately, is how she manages to get drawn deeper and deeper into a mystery she's afraid she can't escape.
What I love about Nevill's work is the overall sense of dread that he infuses his tales with. No One Gets Out Alive jumps into very dark territory pretty quickly, but that overwhelming unsettling feeling is there even in the few pages before that really dark stuff begins. Here, though, that atmosphere and underlying chill builds a bit more slowly, almost lulling the reader into a sort of complacency. That doesn't mean that it's not creepy - it is, intensely so - but I was two thirds of the way through the book thinking that The House of Small Shadows was surprisingly less brutal than No One Gets Out Alive. It seemed though that the moment I voiced this opinion to my husband, the book took a seriously twisted turn!
This is a warning to you, if you are the least bit squeamish this is not the book for you. If the cover makes you want to run and hide, this is definitely not the book for you! If, however, you really do delight in - as I said above - having the ever living crap scared out of you, this is a good one to choose. So, yeah it fit the bill for me :)
If you want to spend some time in the Red House, then you're in luck! I've got a copy to give away to one of you today. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 9. It'll be a post-season treat to stretch the Halloween spirit a little longer. Open US only.
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