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Two things that completely freak me out – dolls and taxidermy! Yuk! And this book has both, in abundance!

I saw a review of this in the Metro and so decided to give it a try – I hadn’t heard of Adam Nevill before, and comparisons to Stephen King of course got my attention. And I was really pleased that I enjoyed this story so much; I read it in one sitting, staying up till way past my bedtime!

The story follows Catherine, an antiques expert who has mysteriously disgraced herself and been forced to flee the limelight, and has found a mediocre post working for a small town valuer. The opportunity to redeem herself comes when an eccentric old lady, Edith Mason, hires the firm to value her uncle’s collection of taxidermy. M.H. Mason was a legend in his field, and the collection is priceless – not only that, it’s been hidden away for decades. The catch is that Catherine, who is in a highly fragile mental state following a relationship breakdown, will have to live at the Red House, Edith’s home, in order to value and catalogue the collection. And the Red House is too close to the area where she grew up – a childhood she doesn’t want to think about, scarred as it is by the mysterious disappearance of her best friend Alice when they were young. The Red House is dark, claustrophobic, and full of nightmarish tableaux of war in animal form; Edith is clearly unhinged; and there are strange noises at night, like children playing…. This is not a recipe for sanity. As Catherine delves deeper into the truth behind the collection, her past returns to haunt her, and her grip on reality starts to slide…

This is really compelling read which creates a very claustrophobic, creepy world. The reasons why Catherine doesn’t simply pack her bags and leave – as I was screaming at her to do – are worked out logically and as events flow through to their conclusion, the result is a startling and satisfying finale. Catherine is a believable heroine and the horror is contained as psychological right until the end, when the true nature of the evil that stalks the Red House is revealed with shocking brutality. I felt that this was a very original and powerful horror story with many memorable moments. I’ll definitely be seeking out more by Adam Nevill, and I think he’s one to watch. ****

Pan, 2013, ISBN 9780330544245