Published by Crooked Lane Book ( 11th August 2020)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and the author via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Sam Wakefield is ‘one of those Wakefields’, she is attached to her ancestral home that lies in the swamp outside of the town of Shadydale. The townspeople stay away from Wakefield Manor because it is said that the ghosts of the past walk it’s halls; that there a swamp witch that lives on the grounds, and that one could get lost in it’s labyrinthine halls, built by one of Sam’s ‘mad’ ancestors. It is no place for children, that much is for sure. So when Sam’s sister, Elizabeth, shows up on the Manor’s doorstep in the middle of the night, heavily pregnant, and vowing that she’s left her husband Donovan, Sam is more than a little worried. It is only after Elizabeth comes to stay at the Manor, that Sam begins to see a new spirit, one that should not be, one that she should not be able to see, and one that should not be able to interact with her. She thinks she knows who the new spirit is, and if she is correct, she has a lot to worry about. A worry that makes her focus on the locked door, the one room in the house that her mother, Agnes, says has always been locked. Could the faceless boy who likes to threaten and torture animals, who hurts little girls, and who wanders the halls wielding a knife be connected to this locked room? Sam is running out of time to solve the mysteries of Wakefield Manor, and she may soon learn that some rooms, should remain locked…
I was pretty excited for my review request of this book to be accepted. It is said to be written in the vein of Shirley Jackson, Gothic horror at it’s finest, and is likened to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is written by the late, great Shirley Jackson herself. I’m yet to read this story of hers, but I have read The Haunting of Hill House, and I found it to be incredibly creepy and eerie, especially for the time that it was written. So, hence my excitement.
I won’t say that I was disappointed in this book, but it did take me a hell of a long time to read something that was less than 300 pages. Granted, I’ve had a lot of things happening in my personal life, between moving house, working a lot, society losing it’s mind and some personal family things, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading. So maybe this was the issue? I do feel that at times it felt like the story was stuck in the mud, and that there wasn’t a whole lot happening. This is very descriptive, maybe too much so for my liking. However, Kaplan does a fantastic job at building atmosphere and I definitely got the creep vibes several times. So much so, that on the first night in the new house, I thought it a good idea NOT to read this one before bed, lest I wake up freaking out because, you know, new house, new house sounds, strange room, all that jazz. So it definitely gets a big point for the creep factor. There was some very unsettling circumstances in this book and I was here for it. However, here is where I will insert a trigger warning; there is cruelty to animals in this book in the form of a bird, and frogs. I for one can’t handle animal cruelty in books, so I like to make it very clear to other readers who may suffer from the same thing. I know that it’s incredibly annoying for me when it says there is some animal cruelty in a book, however that’s the extent of it. I won’t go into details. It’s unsettling and I just skimmed over those parts, and unfortunately, I don’t feel that they could have been left out because it really sets up the character of the faceless boy that Sam begins to see around Wakefield Manor.
The cast of characters were okay, rather dry, Sam I felt was like a blank canvas that didn’t really have a personality, though she did obviously suffer from some form of anxiety or paranoia, this was honestly the only stand out thing about her character. Donovan was the most expressive, and I’ll add another trigger in here for domestic violence, and I’m going to leave it at that. Otherwise the characters were very meh for me, and I’ll probably forget them after not too long.
As said earlier the creep factor was definitely here and I applaud Kaplan for this. The author did a fantastic job of building up the atmosphere of Wakefield Manor, so much so, that it almost felt like a living entity, a character all of it’s own, which is very remnant of Shirley Jackson. Kaplan is very adept at the craft of writing, and I am interested in checking out some other works in the future. The author did a fantastic job of building up the eeriness and making you feel cut off and alone, just like the characters at one point.
The pacing left a little to be desired. As said above, at times it felt like not a lot was happening at all. There was a couple of instances where I was interrupted in my reading, and when I came back to the page and began reading again, I found that I had skipped a few paragraphs, and to be honest, I didn’t bother going back up because nothing new had been divulged and nothing had actually happened, it was like I had picked up right where I left off.
All in all, this was a good horror story and I really felt the creep factor. Kaplan did a fantastic job and I’m definitely interested in reading more by this author. If you love a good literary, Gothic horror, similar to that of Shirley Jackson, give this one a go, you won’t be disappointed.