Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward and to wish the author, and publisher Viper Books, a very happy publication day. My thanks to Viper Books who provided the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
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…
Dark, sinister, brooding, complicated, hopeful, unexpected. I’m not sure I can write a whole lot more about this book as to have the conversations I really want to have would bring us right into the heart of spoiler territory, something that really needs to be avoided when it comes to The Last House On Needless Street. This is a book you with either get or you won’t. One that you will either take on face value, no matter how absurd persevere. And that may seem to. be a very strange thing to say about a book. You don’t want to have to ‘persevere’, you want to be absorbed from the off. And in many ways I absolutely was, but I also recognised the original and quirky nature, one that belies the complex, twisted and oh-so-bloody clever nature of the story that lurks just beneath the surface if only you are brave enough to dive right in.
On the surface this is the story of Ted, a man who once stood accused of abducting a young girl from the local beauty spot. Ted is not your average man, it is clear that there are some developmental issues and that the impact of being accused of such a heinous crime has had a hugely detrimental affect on his life. And that’s about all I can say about Ted other than the fact that he lives with his cat and, on occasion, his daughter Lauren. But as strange things begin to happen on Ted’s street, a neighbour disappearing, a new neighbour arriving, a whole new wave of suspicion falls upon Ted, something not helped by his strange and evasive behaviour.
And that might be about all I can say about the book. This is a book where the less that is said in a review the better. Don’t take the length of the review, the lack of clinical analysis that I might usually be guilty of, as an indicator that I didn’t enjoy it. Far from it. I really really did. But you will get far more enjoyment from reading the book. From getting to know Ted for yourselves, as this is a real study in psychology. Who is Ted? Father, former mechanic, foodie, cat lover? Abductor? Murderer …? That is the real crux of the story. As the blurb suggests, you may think you know but be prepared to be challenged. Ted is a character who seems all at once innocent, unbelievably so, and yet undeniably menacing. But which one is he really? Friend or foe? Man or monster?
With very unique narrators and a story that will chill, unsettle and intrigue in equal measure, this is not your straightforward who, where, why or how-dunnit. It is all of those things and none of them. It is blindingly obvious and yet cleverly disguised and it is only when we reach the end that we can really understand. For me this sits somewhere between thriller and horror, not quite fully one or the other. There is no doubt it is atmospheric and suspenseful, that there are moments that will make your skin crawl. It is billed as gothic and I can see echoes of that genre but I’m not sure it fully fits there either. There is an ethereal quality to it, but it is also lodged solidly in the realm of man, as deep rooted as the trees that border that all too dark and ominous wood at the end of Needless Street. Whatever or wherever this book sits, it is one that I’ll remember for quite some time. Completely unexpected but tragically and utterly compelling.
And it gets one of these, because, well, yes …
About the Author
CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).
Ward’s second novel, Little Eve (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.