By David Mitchell
Kinsey has read a fair number of Mitchell’s books, but this is my first one, and the only way I was able to put it down at all was to try to stretch it out for longer, it was so good! It is also very spooky, so I recommend it for a good October reading, leading up to Halloween. (I realize I’m cutting it a bit close here.)
The story is broken into five chapters, which are all set in the same mysterious house but which each take place 9 years later than the previous one. That alone would be enough to get me, but what really sold me was that each chapter is told in first-person from people from a fairly wide variety of backgrounds and, of course, generations.
The first chapter is set in 1979, with a young teenage boy, clearly on the autism spectrum, accompanying his middle-class but social-climbing mother to an afternoon soiree at the prestigious Slade House. Because this first narrator doesn’t always see things the way neurotypical people might, the awareness that something is off about Slade House came to me gradually. Which, of course, only enhanced the spookiness!
Each chapter unlocks more about what is going on in the house, until the final climatic reveal, which takes a bit of an L from where it appeared to be going. This turned out to be a bit controversial in my household, where I thought it was an intriguing departure from the norm, and Rebecca thought it was lame (though she really enjoyed the rest of the book).
I did not know this was a thing until yesterday evening, but now I’m all pumped to go tomorrow: apparently, in addition to Free Comic Book Day in May, comic stores have Halloween ComicFest, where they offer free Halloween-themed comics! I don’t actually have anything to add to that: Halloween! Free comic books! (Okay, I’ll add two things: one of the free comics is done by Terry Moore, who did (does?) Strangers in Paradise, and one is done by Loeb and Sale, the team that created Batman: The Long Halloween, both series I’ve very much enjoyed.)
As if the sudden chill in the air, the changing leaves, and the dark evenings weren’t enough to convince me that fall is officially here, my apartment building decided to get in on the action this week by setting up an ENORMOUS inflatable grim reaper in the lobby. It’s just decoration for the annual Halloween party, but it looms over you in an ominous way when you’re checking your mail. And speaking of things that kind of freak me out, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is an excellent book to read to get you in the Halloween mood by scaring the bejeezus out of you.
Serial killers and their victims may seem like well-covered material, but this version has a twist–the killer has found a house in Chicago that allows him to travel through time, killing women in Chicago throughout the 1900s. But one of his planned victims survived, and she’s on a mission to figure out who attacked her, no matter how strange the answer might be. The action alternates between the killer and the survivor, and the tension builds as their stories converge. And the occasional chapter following one of the doomed women feel like tiny historical fiction stories, providing snapshots of life at various points in the twentieth century.
There are a lot of things that make me want to recommend this book, including a compelling mystery, a kick-ass female lead character, and a compelling first-person view inside the mind of the killer. But it is a very dark, very creepy, and at times hard to read–I had to stop reading it right before bed because it was giving me nightmares. Also, something bad happens to a dog. But if you’re looking for something to scare you a bit, this is a solid bet.
Kinsey’s (Approximately) Three Word Review: Criminal Minds meets Quantum Leap
You might also like: Any of the mysteries by Tana French or Gillian Flynn–I know I recommend these two all the time, but they have a similar feeling. And Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has a similar mystery combined with a slightly different universe than ours.
By Sadie Jones
This is just the strangest little book! Kinsey recommended it last year as a good spooky story for Halloween reading, and I’ve only now gotten around to reading it. I’m not even sure quite what to think. Oh, I liked it a lot, but was never quite sure where I was standing with it, either.
It started as one of those impoverished English gentry books (you know, where the insular family starts to decay along with their surroundings?); it reminded me a bit of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. Then things took a turn for the worse and it was a bit of an adult Lord of the Flies, which was actually pretty horrifying, though still in a disconcertingly genteel way. As the various mysteries were revealed, though, I realized exactly what this book is: it is a written Edward Gorey illustration.
In fact, it is so much Edward Gorey that when I searched to find a representative illustration, I found the following eight that are literally characters or scenes from the book. I’m putting them after the cut, not because they are spoilers, really, but so I don’t fill up the entire home page with lots and lots of Gorey illustrations. Continue reading