Published by Pan MacMillan (23rd October 2014)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE, MENTION OF RAPE, TORTURE, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE
Stephanie Booth is down on her luck. She’s strapped for cash, working terrible jobs that are few and far between, and is seemingly on her own. So when she takes a cheap room in a share house she thinks things might be looking up. Until she begins to notice that things at 82 Edgehill Road are not right. It’s not just the neglected building or rooms, or even the seedy, sleazy landlord Knacker; it’s the scratching under her bed, the voice beneath the bath tub, the unseen women sobbing in neighbouring rooms and the whispers behind the fireplace. Stephanie soon realises that she’s stumbled into something that no one ever should. When Knackers strange cousin, Fergal appears, the danger sky rockets. However, what will transpire at 82 Edgehill road is just the beginning, and in a house where no one pays attention to the screams and cries for help, will she make it out alive?
I first heard of Adam Nevill when I watched The Ritual on Netflix. I didn’t realise until my partner and I started watching the movie that it was based on a book. After that, I read the book (which was okay), then I came across The Last Days and oh my god, that book was absolutely amazing! So of course I go on a bit of a kick and decide to continue with Nevill’s catalogue – I continued with the Reddening which was okay. I took a break for a bit because I felt like I was getting too bogged down in horror and needed something a bit lighter. When I saw that this was made into a movie, I was determined to read the book first. And I’ll admit, finishing the book and getting to this review was a bit of a slog, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but here we are. And now I’m finding it so hard to actually rate this story, it’s made me feel so many different things and I’m still unsure how I feel, so let’s just ramble away and see what pops up, shall we?
We first meet Stephanie when she’s moving into a cheap room on Edgehill Road. She’s not having a great time, and I feel like Nevill did such a fantastic job of really illustrating how bad things were for her. She’s working crappy temp jobs because that’s all she can get at the moment, she’s trying her hardest to make a better life for herself and she’s just not getting anywhere. She’s had to move out on her own because her Step Mother is a psycho and her father has passed away, and she had broken up with her latest boyfriend recently which spurred this move, a move that was meant to get her standing on her own two feet. Nevill did such an amazing job of really making me feel Stephanie’s isolation, and downtrodden existence. It felt like, every time Stephanie thought she might have been getting a leg up, something else jumped on her to keep her down, and moving into Knacker’s house only made it a billion times worse. Straight off the bat you know that this is a place you would NEVER move into, not in a million years, but Stephanie felt like she had no choice, she didn’t have a lot of money and she needed something now. Me personally? I probably would have rented a cheap as motel room, but when you’re desperate you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and that’s exactly how this was for Stephanie. She figured she’d be living there with other women, as the sign advertising the room stated something along the lines of ‘women only’. And sure, she was living with other women, I guess, but not in the way she had imagined. From the first night Stephanie starts experiencing strange noises, voices and occurrences, and as the days go on, they get substantially worse until you’re at a point where you just sit there and go “how the hell did we get here?”
I did find that the story was dragging a fair bit, I was not quite 30% through and it just felt very repetitive to me, Stephanie getting up, going to a temp job, coming home, feeling sorry for herself, chasing someone – anyone – else living in the house for human contact, trying to steer clear of Knacker and his greasy existence, experiencing some strange shit then waking up to do it all again. I actually put the book down at this point. Yes the stuff that was happening to Stephanie was creepy, but it just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I went away and read another six odd books or something, then thought “No, I’m going to finish the damn thing” and here we are. What started as a struggle soon turned into me turning pages furiously because I began to devour this story. The repetitiveness of the story, I can now see, did have a purpose. The slow descent into absolute madness and terror was built through the slow progression of the story itself, and while I can now understand that, it didn’t make it any less frustrating to read. Though I honestly don’t know if anything could have been shortened or cut out to make the pacing a bit better and the story move a bit faster. I worry that if something were to have been edited out, the story just would not have had the same impact that it has done. By the time I got to around the 65% mark, I just could not stop. I was absolutely enthralled. As everything came to a horrifying climax it was like BANG lights off – Act 2. Literally.
This story is essentially told in two parts. The events at Edgehill Road through Stephanie’s experiences, then the events AFTER Edgehill Road told from Amber’s perspective. This was quite a polarising change in the story line. It felt like two books. It’s like we climbed a hill in the first part, just to be dumped back down at the bottom and having to scale another mountain. The slow build of tension in the second part was reminiscent of the first, though I felt like I knew what to expect this time so was better prepared for the pacing. The slow build of horror that makes your skin crawl, makes your anxiety poke it’s head up and sniff the air, was real. I actually ended up freaking out last night after having put my kindle down for the night to go to sleep. I realised too late that maybe I shouldn’t have read this book right before bed. It was at that point that I realised what an amazing job Nevill had done with building atmosphere that you can feel, tension that has made my neck ache and just emotional whiplash that has left me with a headache. This ladies and gentleman, is a man who is so adept at his craft. Being able to drop you into the middle of something and make you feel every single bit of it is a skill that is few and far between. This is not simply a regurgitation of the same tropes used time and time again in the horror genre, this is someone carving out something all of their own and THIS is what I am here for.
The characters in this story were so real I could smell them. The use of descriptors made me smell the halitosis and the greasy, slimy, dirty, feral stench that Fergal secreted through his pores, I felt like I could hear Knacker’s weaselly, unhinged voice echoing around my skull. I could feel the dirt and grit from room fittings that had probably never been cleaned. And every single bit of this made the experience reading this book THAT much more. These characters were so real I felt like they were sitting next to me the whole time I read through this book. Stephanie’s plight and terror and isolation made me feel anxious. Even though I will never understand why she stayed as long as she did (Mind you, that was only 9 days), I can also understand that she literally had no other choice. She was put into a situation that she had absolutely no way out of, against characters that were so vile, they had complete control over her at any and all points of time while she resided under that roof. Many people may sit there and talk about all the ways they would have escaped, and I myself was guilty of this while reading, I was screaming at Stephanie in my head to JUST GET THE HELL OUT NOW WOMAN! Yet knowing full well that she couldn’t. The terrifying part of most of this story is that, Stephanie could have been any of us. Her situation is something that could happen to anyone, and THAT is the true horror.
I love how Nevill weaves human terror with horrific lore to create these stories that really burrow into your brain and sit there and stew. They have you thinking about them for so long after you finish the book, and that’s the work of a true genius. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s going to stick with you. And while I did have issues with the pacing in a couple of parts of this story, I’m actually bumping my rating up to a full four stars from 3.75. Just writing this review has me mulling over this story again, and I can say for certain, I did enjoy this book, it is horrifying, it is violent, it is graphic and the supernatural elements are the delicious spice on top. This is one book that is going to stick with me for while.
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