Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

Today I share my thoughts on the latest dark thriller from Catriona Ward. I loved The Last House On Needless Street so am very grateful to publishers Viper, for the early copy from Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 20 April 2023
Publisher: Viper Books

About the Book

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.

This book will be Wilder’s revenge on Sky, who betrayed his trust and died without ever telling him why. But as he writes, Wilder begins to find notes written in Sky’s signature green ink, and events in his manuscript start to chime eerily with the present. Is Sky haunting him? And who is the dark-haired woman drowning in the cove, whom no one else can see?

No longer able to trust his own eyes, Wilder feels his grip on reality slipping. And he begins to fear that this will not only be his last book, but the last thing he ever does.

Discover the new dark thriller from the bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street

My Thoughts

Okay. So this will be far harder to review than I imagined when I started reading. Not for any bad reason, more that it is a very complex book that it’s hard to talk about without giving away the very heart of what makes it unique and special. On the surface this is the story of Wilder Harlow, a young man whose family take a summer vacation at Whistler Bay, one that will change his life and those of his new friends, Nat and Harper, in unimaginable ways. What starts as a simple summer friendship, takes a dark and atmospheric turn, and a return to the cottage the following year will blow the fragile bonds of their friendship apart as dark secrets are revealed.

This book requires, and deserves, your absolute concentration. I was fooled at the start into thinking that this was a fairly straightforward mystery/suspense, one with darkness at its heart. What an idiot I was. I’ve read Needless Street. straightforward is not Catriona Ward’s style at all. This brooding coming of age drama takes a sinister, horror tinged turn, and becomes far more complex and multi-faceted than I had expected, leading stories within stories and leaving me wondering what was real. It is only towards the end of the book that the full intricacies of this book become clear, not quite a lightbulb moment, more a gradual dawning when everything you thought you understood is washed away with the tide and the truth is what remains on the shoreline.

Characters are really what make this book so special. From the trio of Harper, Wilder and Nat, to the adults and friends who come to inform their lives over the years, they are complicated, flawed people with more than an edge of credibility about them. My feelings towards them moved from sympathy to incredulity, their actions fuelling a myriad of emotions. What happens throughout the course of the book is enough to damage any young mind, and it’s fair to say that none of them were exactly operating in a fully stable state of mind to begin with. I love how the author played with this uncertainty about their motivations and actions to add conflict and unease to an already unsettling story. The whole book is essentially about uncovering the same truth that we as readers are searching for, and none of what unfurls is perhaps what any of us were expecting.

The narrative style of this book varies the more we progress through the pages. Told in part from Wilder’s own point of view, it is a style which keeps us shielded from the full truth, slowly revealing facts which will in turn prove pivotal in our understanding of what is going on. Or perhaps not. I thought so for a while, but as with everything in this book, appearances can be deceptive. Take nothing for granted and nothing, and perhaps no-one, at face value.

A story of friendships, family, betrayal and murder, this is a complex and haunting mystery that is crammed with atmosphere and suspense. The setting is perfect, the imagery so vivid and wild that it draws you right in. Yes, it is complicated and sometimes confusing, but the further you rear the clearer things become. And it is tinged with the unexpected right to the very last. If you like the authors unique and twisted style, you will love this book.

About the Author

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.

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