Published by Red Door Press (19th May 2022)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
After Ernie Lipkiss is found dead in the abandoned office building where he worked the security night shift, his old partner Ali Davenport is called in. While police are ruling Ernie’s death a suicide, his partner believes that he was murdered. She implores Ali to take on the night shift and prove that he didn’t jump to his death, he was pushed, and not just by anyone, by the Knock-Knock man. This revelation throws Ali back fifteen months prior to the devastating events that ended her career in law enforcement and labelled her as a pariah. She takes the case because she is still haunted by the presence of the Knock-Knock man and is determined to uncover the truth once and for all. She knows that she saw him at the Deveraux Estate the night that a young man lost his life, and she intends to prove that he exists, whether man, ghost or other. She befriends a young ghost hunter by the name of Will who has video evidence of someone being in the building…but is it the someone that Ali is so desperately searching for?
I’ve been on quite a horror kick this year, so when I saw this one pop up on Netgalley I had to request it. The cover drew me in and I feel like it gives an unsettling vibe, which is what I’ve been searching for. I will admit though, this one really fell short for me, and I’m not sure if it’s because I expected something totally different, or if I just got the wrong idea after reading the blurb.
There was some definite creep elements that popped up in this book, and I did have a couple of instances reading this before sleep that I thought maybe I should have picked something else. The first night that Ali is working the night shift in the building, I had chills and goosebumps from certain scenes which I feel shows that Mardell definitely has the ability to write a creepy and atmospheric story. I think what made this book rate lower for me is that it came across mostly as a police procedural than a horror, and that’s just not what I was after. It felt like there was a whole lot of setup happening in the beginning, which I get, but it just seemed to drag on for so long before anything really happened, and I honestly really struggled with it. The pacing just wasn’t there and it was a bit of a slog for me to get through.
The story, for a portion, is told through alternating chapters of present day and fifteen months ago, so we get the full picture of what happened to put the Knock-Knock man on Ali’s radar and everything that went down at the Deveraux Estate which ended her career and turned her into a hot mess. I was really interested in the happenings at the Deveraux Estate and I kind of wish that the book had have been written about that instead of the events after. There was some great scenes in the Deveraux house that gave major creep vibes and I was pretty invested in them as it really drove home the question of – who or what is the Knock-Knock man? I spent a lot of the book not knowing whether he was a regular person, or a supernatural being, which I liked. And there was some touches on the possibility of occult involvement and secret societies. I kind of wish the whole secret societies thing was touched on a bit more because these people are mentioned a handful of times and we get a brief rundown of their organisation, but they don’t really play a part except for one thing (IYKNK) and I felt like it was a thread that should have been followed a bit more to add a bit more excitement and mystery to the story. The legend of the Knock-Knock man was really well thought out and definitely terrifying, I was always afraid (and still am) of looking out a darkened window to fine a face peering back in at me, so that was a winner. I just wanted it to be more than what it was and I found that I was pretty disappointed when everything was revealed, all the steam kind of went out of the sails for me at that point.
The characters well written well enough, I didn’t overly like Ali though, I know she was going through a lot and I love a flawed character but she had such a huge chip on her shoulder which just overshadowed everything else about her. I really enjoyed the character of Will and I’m sad that Ernie wasn’t still around in the present part of the story because I really enjoyed him as well. The character of the Knock-Knock man was so well written, this really shows that Mardell has the great ability to write a truly unsettling, and scary antagonist which is no small feat. Being able to instill fear with a character that you only have glimpses of or are hearing about second hand is amazing, and I really applaud Mardell for that.
Overall, I feel like there were a lot of little details in the story that could have done with some more exploration and deeper diving to really round the story out a bit more. Small things like the repeated mention of the cat at the office building, I thought would lead to something or have more of a point, but it just sort of dead ended, the same with the church and the priest, which I found confusing as they were made significant in the story itself (to me anyway) yet lead nowhere and I still don’t understand the point of placing so much significance on them. The same goes for the constant throwback to Ali’s father and the beach house and the dress he bought her, it was just sort of there and didn’t add anything to the story for me. I wanted more from the occult angle and the secret society and feel that they could have really added something extra to the story. It read more like a crime novel than a horror so it fell a bit short for me because that’s not what I was looking for. All in all, it’s not a bad story it just didn’t live up to my expectations. If you don’t mind a solid mystery that keeps you guessing and a spiky protagonist with a lot of unresolved issues, and some threads not being tied up or into anything, give it a crack.
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