Timy reviews The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward‘s Horror novel, published by Viper.
|Series: stand alone||Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery|
|Date of Publishing: March 18, 2021||Trigger Warnings: abuse, mental illness, suicide, death|
|Page count: 338||Publisher: Viper|
This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.
In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…
Wow. I first was thinking to go with something from Stone Sour, but then I remembered The Horrible Crowes, who have creepy lyrics and a sound that fits more the atmosphere of The Last House on Needless Street. I did not think I would find such a perfect match in I Witnessed A Crime.
It’s been nearly two weeks since I finished reading/listening to the audiobook version of The Last House on Needless Street, and I still couldn’t figure out how I feel about it. And I’ve been thinking a lot. I usually try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as I can, but I’m going to have an exception here. I’ll be marking the place where I’ll go into spoiler territory, so you’ll have a warning if you’d rather not read on.
Despite my general like of the grimdark/dark fantasy subgenre, horror is a genre I rarely read in. Or watch movies for that matter. I’m just really not into it, I guess. That’s not to say I can’t appreciate a great thriller or mystery – I like watching true crime shows for instance. What I’m trying to say here is… I have no idea what I’m trying to say. Except that I have weird quirks. And that I draw the line somewhere between grimdark and horror? I’m not sure I make any sense, so let’s move on. Suffice to say, horror is not a genre I’m overly familiar with which can be one of the reasons I failed to love this book. Which is disappointing, because I had high expectations going in based on the recommendations of people whose taste I trust in.
I’ve been looking for a good opportunity to get to read this book, and the Ladies of Horror Fiction Readalong seemed like the perfect reason to jump The Last House on Needless Street on the top of my TBR. I opted for the audiobook, and I have to say, Christopher Ragland‘s narration is absolutely top-notch. He nails the different voices so well, that you feel compelled to go and make sure that it’s really only one person narrating. Just brilliant.
As for the story itself, in The Last House on Needless Street is nothing as it seems. There are layers upon layers that are coming together nicely by the end. There are also a lot of clues and hints sprinkled throughout which makes it a bit too easy to guess the twists. One particular line in chapter 1 made me guess the first twist, and from then on, the rest was easy to figure out. That’s not to say I didn’t get caught by surprise here or there, though. But in the grand scheme of things, I found this book a bit underwhelming. There were times I was thinking about DNFing, but my curiosity got the better of me, and me see it through the end – which I have no regrets about.
The Last House on Needless Street has a small(ish) cast of characters. 3 of which have their POV chapters: Ted, Olivia, and Dee. Ted lives in his childhood home with his daughter Lauren and his cat, Olivia. He lives secluded, has his mental health problems, and the only time he leaves the house is when he is going to the forest, to a local therapist for meds and advice, and to local pubs to drink and try to date women. Not very successfully. He doesn’t have friends and he can’t quite get free of his mother’s influence over him even though she’s been long gone. Things are slowly getting out of his control when Dee appears in the house next to his, bent on finding her lost sister who went missing some ten years earlier from the lake. She is determined to figure out what happened and is ready to lay the blame on Ted. But of course, nothing as it seems and as the truths come to the surface, we are forced to face our prejudices and first impressions. We see into the depths of their lives through their memories and find the darkest corners of their existence. Some are more disturbing than others.
The problem, for me, was that I wasn’t invested in the characters and didn’t really feel what I should have been feeling and that bothers me. I know what my reactions should have been, especially as the reveals were coming up, but I really just wanted to get to the end to see where it all goes. That’s not to say I wasn’t appalled by some of the events – because, hell, I was. But when a book has a mildly interesting plot with characters that fail to make you have strong feelings towards them, being occasionally appalled is just not enough. However, it gave me plenty of things to think about, and one thing I can’t take away from Ward: she clearly put a lot of research into the main mental health problem featured in this book, and handled her characters with care. They all had their more or less deserved ending – I say more or less because I just can’t make my mind up about Dee’s fate. But the thing is, I did have an emotional reaction to the book due to some personal reasons, which was connected to the mental condition itself rather than anything happening in the book. But I’ll talk about this a bit more in depth in the spoilers section after the review itself.
Overall, The Last House on Needless Street is a thought-provoking novel, with some chilling elements, placing mental illness into the focus in a different way – which is refreshing – managing to stay with you for a long time. Regardless if you liked the book or not. And for that, it definitely deserves the praise. And while I’m in the minority who didn’t fall in love with Ward‘s prose, story, or characters, I can see why others did.
Right, let’s get to the spoilery bits. Please only click on the spoiler tag if you already read the book or have no intention of reading it. Otherwise, feel free to skip this part and maybe grab a copy for yourself if you’d like to make your own judgment!