by Jane Healey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have to admit I went into this book with certain expectations and that expectation was turn completely upside down by the time I had finished. There is an air of suspension that follows you through the whole story. I loved this feeling and not knowing exactly where the feeling was coming from. The author does a really job of nudging us with mysterious happenings while giving us no solid answers until the truth I sprung on us at the end. The characters are very well written, both those we are meant to like and those we aren’t. I loved getting to know them and seeing how the develop in the midst of the tension and dread.
All My Thoughts
May contain spoilers.
I loved this book. The build up and pacing is a bit slow, but I think this kind of works in its favor. There is so much presented to us to instantly start the tension building up. Main protagonist Hetty is in charge of the storage of the Museum of London’s mammal collection in secluded Lockwood Manor. The story takes place during World War II so already the book starts with war looming in the background of their lives. Once Lockwood is introduced the subtle tension from this angle steadily starts to climb as well. Major Lockwood himself instantly puts the reader on edge as he comes off extremely condescending and arrogant. But it’s when we meet his daughter Lucy that we are introduced to the “is there or isn’t there” supernatural plot line. Lucy has been traumatized from a young age both from her own experiences, like accidentally crushing a dove with her bare feet, and her mother’s mad behavior.
Lucy is such an interesting character. She suffers so much anxiety and terror in life and a huge part of this is her mother forcing her to spend hours locked in a dark room claiming it is for her protection. Her mother has long been claiming that a woman in white has been following and haunting her and she has clearly been slipping into madness her whole life, until she and her mother-in-law died in a car crash shortly before the start of the book. Lucy seems mostly to have dealt with her grief and Major Lockwood has more or less moved on as well as is evident from his string of causal flings. As we get to know Lucy though, her attachment to her childhood home as also turned it into sort of a prison she feels she must stay in, that she belongs to it. This of course adds to this supernatural undercurrent.
As time goes, Hetty is constantly dealing with simply maintaining the mammal specimens that are suffering weather damage from the uncomfortable heat and frigid air throughout the seasons and bug infestations. Her real trial starts when the exhibits seem to be moved from their original locations are vanish all together. Suddenly this dark feeling becomes more intense and harder to figure out. I loved that all these strange happenings are constantly ongoing and we can never really figure out why. I spent this entire book making guesses and assuming things I didn’t want to about people, but I felt could make sense.
When we learn the truth about what is going on at the house all of my theories were thrown out of the window. I actually true loved learning that the real darkness that permeated everything around the story was a more human and sadly realistic evil.
Through all of this anxiety and uncomfortable darkness in the story though, a sweet and somewhat tragic romance is blossoming. The juxtaposition this causes was a welcome palette cleanse. Hetty and Lucy come to realize their attraction for one another, as well as why nothing ever quite felt right to them before. This was incredible sweet to see but somewhat heartbreaking as the two as realize how difficult this relationship is for them to maintain given the time period.
While I don’t actually want to spoil too much about the ending, I will say that at a certain point I could not put the book down and felt the driving need to see how it all turned out. I found the ending satisfying if maybe a little bit too “happy” in a sense. There was a happy ending Hetty and Lucy which I was pleased to see, though I did feel the lose suffered throughout was maybe a bit ignored.
This was a fantastically slow placed thriller that built tension from so many angles well and had a satisfyingly shocking conclusion.