Title: The Last House on Needless Street
Author: Catriona Ward
Date of Publication: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.
In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.
A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.
An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.
This book is a literary masterpiece. The writing is quite phenomenal. First, we’re introduced to Tim, a strange man who lives in a strange house. It’s almost immediately apparent that he’s not quite right in the head. The way that he describes people and the world around him and what he’s doing seems a little… off. And then he refers to his “mommy”, and that seals the deal. There’s something quite odd about this man–but is he dangerous? Is he a killer?
The other characters in this book are just as fascinating, but I fell in love with Olivia, the cat, almost instantaneously. Having the point of view of a cat is so unique, and I loved her attitude and the way that she, too, saw the world in a unique perspective that is reflected in her language and the way that she communicates to the reader.
The author is the master of the show-don’t-tell plot device. We’re shown how odd Ted is, rather than told it. We experience the same disorientation that he feels at certain parts in the story.
At some point, this book transforms from a strange novel with seemingly no purpose but to meet the strange inhabitants of the last house on Needless Street into a mystery. A young girl went missing eleven years earlier. It becomes clear to the reader that whatever happens in this peculiar little novel is going to circle back to whatever happened back then. But the way that it will happen is a complete mystery. There are multiple characters with disjointed storylines that are so compelling and unpredictably peculiar.
While the first twist was expected and quite well implemented, in my opinion, the author takes it too far with several additional twists that seemed over the top. I can’t say much more without spoiling, but I did appreciate the afterword that the author provides explaining the conclusion. However, generally speaking, a good thriller/mystery/horror shouldn’t require an afterword to explain the thought process to justify plot twists.
All in all, Catriona Ward is a talented writer. The characters somehow manage to juggle that balance between disturbing and heartfelt. The plot was perfectly paced, with plot developments are well spaced out among the haunting descriptions and flashbacks. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the twist at the end of the book, I still give the story four stars for the beautiful writing and fascinating characters. Even the plot, up until the end, had me riveted, flipping through the pages and swearing under my breath.
*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*
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