The House by Simon Lelic
|The House by Simon Lelic|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Tightly plotted, decidedly creepy and more than a bit claustrophobic…a thriller set very much in modern London, and all too plausible|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: November 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Syd loved the house, despite the fact that it was crammed full of the seller's stuff and they had to take the whole lot as a job lot. The seller had run off to Australia apparently and was up for a quick sale, lock, stock and barrel. Jack wasn't so sure. He found the place creepy, and it wasn't just the stuffed birds, there was an air about the place that he just didn't like.
He was happy to go along with the plan of putting in an offer though, because let's face it, this is London, there was no way that any offer they could afford would be accepted.
Only it was. So they moved in…and to be fair they were happy. Or happy(ish) depending on which one of them you listened to.
You'll get to hear them both because The House is a joint project. This is Jack and Syd trying to explain what is happening, trying to make it real despite how bizarre it all seems. For Syd (Sydney – a name she chose for herself when she started reinventing who she might be) it is also an explanation of who she is, how she feels and most importantly why. Her history is important. It might very well be why the things that no-one believes have happened, might just have happened the way she tells them.
We're told at the very beginning that this is not a ghost story. The more the story progresses, with Jack's version of events and Syd's, different perspectives on the same stuff, staying very close together but somehow subtly shifting apart, the more you might question that assertion. If the house was creepy to begin with…it gets worse. Intruders in the night, that don't seem to be there. Dead animals on the walls are one thing, but what's in the attic is less easy to explain. And then there's the treasure chest…and the photograph…
Like all couples Jack and Syd keep secrets from each other for the best of reasons. Like all couples secrets are never well-kept and when found out scatter more confusion and lies before hurtful truths.
All of this is before anyone actually dies…but you kind of know that someone probably will. It's only a question of time, of who, and how, and why… and who will get the blame.
Tightly plotted, The House is told in the very different voices of Jack and Syd, each of them writing in the first person, because that's what they have agreed to do. It uses the conceit of a joint journal, exchanged between them, to write it out, to tell it exactly as it was. It's a very conversational style, almost as if they are writing both for us and for each other and works brilliantly at establishing sympathy for both characters…at least to begin with. As the story progresses, you can't help but wonder about the reliability of the narrators. Which one of them is telling the truth? Is either of them? Are both of them? It's a neat device, expertly deployed.
The tension is there from the very first page, and is allowed to slowly build as we get brought up to date. In terms of the action, there is no let up, it is slow and relentless…alleviated only by the innate humour of Syd in particular who has a crude but delightfully picturesque turn of phrase that will make you smile in spite of yourself on occasions.
Then things get very personal, and vicious. All the insinuated violence, all the games playing, plays out in real anger with very real, very bloody consequences.
Tightly plotted, decidedly creepy, more than a bit claustrophobic this is a thriller that throws in some of society's biggest issues almost as back-story, but then leaves you with the certain message that you need to think again.
You can read more book reviews or buy The House by Simon Lelic at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The House by Simon Lelic at Amazon.com.
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