The Dead House by Anne Cassidy

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The Dead House by Anne Cassidy

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Tense and claustrophic psychological novel in which a young girl revisits the scene of her mother's murder. Beautifully written and perfectly attuned to a protagonist on the cusp of adulthood.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Hodder
ISBN: 0340932287

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When Lauren was just seven years old, her mother and sister were brutally killed in their family home. Lauren herself barely made it out alive. For the past ten years, her father has been in prison serving a life sentence for murder, and Lauren has been living with her aunt and uncle far away in Cornwall.

But now Lauren is seventeen and back in London, close to the scene of the crime. Jessie and Donny are going through a rough patch and Donny has moved out. Lauren is doing her best to comfort her distraught aunt and make progress towards good grades in her A levels, but something keeps pulling her back to her childhood home. She makes detours and stands outside, just looking, and the crumbs of memories begin to swirl and form.

Should she pursue them, or bat them away?

In the press release for The Dead House, Cassidy says that she does not attempt to provide analyses or answer to the question of why men kill their families. She is simply writing a story. And she doesn't and she is. But I don't see the story as simple; I see it as challenging. The best books for children and young adults challenge in this way: they tell a story without judgement and they put it out there. It's asking for sophisticated thought from readers, and when the characterisation and plotting are good - as they are here - they generally get it.

Lauren is on the cusp of adulthood. Lots of things are changing inside her and around her. She's growing up, she's beginning to wonder about love and being loved, she's taking exams and thinking of uni. Her aunt and uncle look to be splitting up and that means saying goodbye to the security of the family unit that has taken care of her since her mother and sister were killed and her father was sent to prison. It's inevitable that she's going to need to look back before she can truly look forward and the introspection of adolescence and violent upheaval in her past make the experience more intense.

It's a tense and claustrophobic book that doesn't give too much away before the eventual plot reveal, but the clues are there for the careful reader to spot. What it does lay bare are Lauren's thought processes as she gradually clears away the blockages of the past to make room for the future. It's an absorbing, intimate and thought-provoking read. I always enjoy Anne Cassidy's books, and this one is no exception.

My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.

They might also enjoy From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma or another of Anne Cassidy's books, Hidden Child in which protagonists also revisit their pasts. Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine will also appeal.

Buy The Dead House by Anne Cassidy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dead House by Anne Cassidy at

Buy The Dead House by Anne Cassidy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dead House by Anne Cassidy at


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