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…
It is my great privilege to be reviewing an advance copy of this book provided to me for this purpose by Sahina Bibi at Viper Books. My thanks to Sahina for the opportunity, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.
I’ve been wrestling with writing this post for a few weeks now, because I knew this was going to be a very hard book to review for two reasons. Firstly, it is vital that the reader goes into this book completely in the dark as to plot to experience the full impact of the story, so I have to make sure the review doesn’t contain the slightest sniff of a spoiler, which is not an easy feat here. Secondly, the book is stunning in ways it is hard to convey with my inadequate words. However, a review has been promised so a review I shall deliver to the best of my abilities.
As you can gather from the blurb reproduced above, this is a thriller with a murder at its heart and involving a missing child. That’s about as much of the plot as I can tell you. The story is told through the voices of three narrators. Ted, an awkward, socially-inept man who lives alone on Needless Street. Dee, whose younger sister Lulu went missing years before, and for whom she has been searching ever since. And Ted’s cat, Olivia.
I know. A cat as a narrator. Any book using this device wouldn’t normally be my bag but, trust me, here it works. Truly. Do not let this put you off from picking up the book, it is vital to the plot and you will appreciate the genius of it once you have finished the book, I promise.
That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. You have to go into the book with no more knowledge than this. No more chat about characters, or how the plot is put together, or highs and lows or endings or anything. You need to find these things out for yourself by reading it, so that you can experience the mental impact of the book’s events as they unfold on the page, as the author intended. You need to not know to appreciate it. Instead, let’s talk about the writing.
This book is dark and twisted and disturbing and oppressive and upsetting, and so beautiful and poetic that it makes me want to weep with joy and envy. I was baffled and perplexed and confused and surprised and moved and thrown and distraught and horrified and sorry from one moment to the next. I had no idea what was coming, and could never have understood or appreciated it until right at the end, when I was blown away as everything suddenly fell into place. It was totally shocking and utterly, utterly wonderful. I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it over again from the new perspective of someone who has finished it and sees it all. This is a book where you can NEVER have the same experience you had on your first reading ever again, so savour that first time. How the author has woven this book together, the depth of exploration of the subject matter, the empathy, the tenderness, the poetry of the writing, the gorgeous metaphors – it is nothing short of astonishing. I have never read anything like this book. I have never come away from a novel with the thoughts and feelings that this novel gave me. I was profoundly surprised by what it achieved and how it made me feel.
I know this review is a bit vague, I’d apologise but there is no other way to do it and leave the reading experience intact for you. Suffice it to say, you should read it. Did I love it? That’s not the right way to express how it made me feel and if you read it you’ll understand why I say this. You may think you know thrillers. You don’t. You may think you have seen it all so nothing can surprise you. You haven’t. This book is something else. Just read it and see, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The Last House on Needless Street will be published on 18 March in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats and on 30 September in paperback, and you can pre-order the book here.
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.
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