Author: Scott Thomas
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: September 23, 2019
When Kris’s husband dies, she decides to take her daughter, Sadie, to stay at the summer cottage her family used to visit when she was a little girl. But things aren’t quite as idyllic as Kris remembers. The cottage is run down and uncared for. The town of Pacington has had a string of missing girls. Strangely, Sadie isn’t at all upset to be spending her summer in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere far from all her friends. She’s made a new friend–an imaginary one. A little girl named Violet, who is suspiciously similar to the imaginary friend that Kris had when she stayed at this cottage twenty years ago…
The concept of this novel is simple, yet brilliant. Unfortunately, because of this, there aren’t many twists in the plot that aren’t immediately given away by the blurb on the back of the book. Despite this, the book is all about the journey. It’s about following Kris as she struggles to understand what is happening, even if the reader already knows or suspects what is going on.
Unlike Kill Creek, Scott Thomas’s debut novel, Violet is far more literary, and, as a result, it is much slower paced. There are many flashbacks to when Kris was a little girl staying in this house, filling in the gaps in her memories which have faded over the years. The prose is powerful and gripping, and the setting and characters are so well-described that I could perfectly envision Kris and Sadie stepping out of the car and approaching their new home.
I did write down in my notes that at the very beginning of the novel, I found the writing to be somewhat muddled. It felt like a train of thought—hard to follow if you’re outside of the writer’s head. It was also so literary that it didn’t at all feel like a horror novel until a quarter of the way through. It felt like Kris and Sadie were genuinely going to spend the summer at a cottage and that they would find themselves, not the horrors that awaited them. There were a few somewhat ominous events towards the beginning of the book, but, unfortunately, I think a little more action earlier on would have made the first half more engaging for the novel’s intended reader (horror readers!).
The legend of the missing girls adds a delightfully foreboding atmosphere throughout the novel. The history surrounding the town is just as important as the present-day events. That said, Violet isn’t as scary as Thomas’s debut. However, the emphasis on character development and building the relationship between Kris and Sadie really made me genuinely fear for both of their safety.
As a result of the emphasis on flashbacks and introspection, Kris is a well-fleshed out, three-dimensional character. We mostly see Sadie through Kris’s eyes, although the little girl occasionally gets scenes from her point of view. I would have liked to have seen a little more from her perspective. At one point we get a flashback from Sadie’s POV to when Kris had mocked her creepy doll. Sadie had been deeply hurt by this. I particularly enjoyed this scene—as it clearly showed the contrast between who Kris is, who she believes herself to be, and how her daughter perceives her. I would have liked more of these types of reflections from Sadie’s point of view, instead of the emphasis on Kris’s.
Everyone in Pacington has a realistic small-town vibe to them, which is accompanied by a mysteriousness that is quite subtle. As I read the novel, I got the sense that everyone seems to know more than they let on about the missing girls. That paranoia stoked in me as the reader perfectly mirrors Kris’s own paranoia and depression, as she spirals downward into her delusions (but are they delusions?).
I definitely recommend this book to those who want to read a gripping literary horror novel. This might even be a perfect gateway book for those who prefer literary works and are hoping to explore the horror genre.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Inkshares for the advanced reader copy for review*
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