Thankfully I’d read a number of reviews of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward before I started reading it. It’s clever and well-written and some of the prose is quite magical. But I would have put it down just a few chapters in had I not known that it was worth ‘hanging in’ for.
In all honesty this book is a bit of a mind-f*ck. We know from the beginning that all is not as it seems. Our lead character Ted has (ahem) issues. Another narrator is a cat. Perhaps. It features much f*cked-upedness. But – once you get past the first few chapters it’s oddly compelling.The Last House on Needless Street
by Catriona Ward
Published by Viper
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Horror, Thriller / Suspense
This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet they are all lies...
You think you know what's inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you've read this story before. That's where you're wrong.
In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it's not what you think...
I went through three stages as I read this book. As mentioned above at first I didn’t think I could continue. Despite Ward’s eloquence I just couldn’t get into it.
And then I did, but there was a sense of distaste. I felt like I guessed fairly early on where this book was heading and what secrets were being kept from us. It seemed quite obvious from the language used and the lack of context given to some of the characters.
But Ward doesn’t give us everything we need. We fairly quickly learn about those living in Ted’s house but then there’s mention of the ‘gods’ in the woods and a sinister sense that a serial killer has been active for some time.
We also dip into the past. There are snippets from Ted’s childhood, particularly relating to his mother. And there are references to the disappearance of Lulu – the popsicle girl – 11 years earlier.
In the present her older sister Dee is still trying to learn more about Lulu’s fate. Dee is one of our narrators and as we’ve met her ‘then’ and ‘now’ it’s hard not to feel sad for the life she’d been poised to live that was taken from her when her sister disappeared and her family disintegrated.
I put the book aside about three-quarters of the way through. I was enjoying it but felt unsettled. I didn’t find this too gory or gruesome but it is also badged as horror and I’m reminded I felt similarly about The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. Which of course says more about me (and my reading taste) than the book itself.
And then I read the last quarter and was blown-away. Ward managed to completely stun me. Not once but twice. It completely changed the book for me. It changed what I thought I was reading and how I felt about it.
So I ultimately enjoyed this book, but it took me a while to get there. It’s almost impossible to rate because the writing and some of the plotting is quite extraordinary. On the other, the pacing felt a little uneven and I wonder if the confusing nature of this book (at times) might mean fewer people finish it than might otherwise be the case. But I’d certainly recommend it. Be warned however, this book will f*ck with your mind a little.
How many times can someone bend before they break for ever? You have to take care, dealing with broken things; sometimes they give way, and break others in their turn. p 234
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.