The Last House on Needless Street
The Last House on Needless Street
This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the
story of Ted, who lives with his young daughter Lauren and his cat
Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies. An unspeakable secret binds the family together, and when a new neighbour moves in next door, the truth may destroy them all. Because there's something buried in the dark forest at the end of Needless Street. But it's not what you think...
From the multiple award-winning author of Little Eve and Rawblood, this extraordinary tale will thrill and move readers. A work of incredible imagination and heartbreaking beauty.
The Last House on Needless Street is one of those books that you hear people raving about, but it is not until you read it and experience the book for yourself do you understand the hype.
However, the difficulty of reviewing a book like this is to try to discuss it without giving away any of the plot, because if you get one whiff of it, then the construction of its brilliance will come crashing down, and let me tell you that the best way to experience this book is without any hint of what the story is about and how the plot is constructed, although for the purpose of a review, you do have to talk about something or what would be the point?
As the blurb tells you, this is a story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary House at the end of an ordinary street.
Now you think that you may have heard it all before but let me assure you – you haven’t!
The story revolves around Ted, and the house that he lives in.
Ted lives with his cat Olivia, and sometimes with his daughter Lauren who comes to visit him occasionally at various points throughout the story.
And from there we get the story of what happens in the house from both Ted’s perspective, and from his cat’s, Olivia.
We learn that Ted likes to record his recipes for lunch, and that he likes Strawberry and Vinegar Sandwiches.
We learn that Ted saved Olivia when she was a kitten, and that she loves the cat that she can see through the peephole of the boards that cover Ted’s house and that she is on a mission to give Ted as much love and attention as she can.
Oh, and then there is the issue of the missing girl, who went missing eleven years ago at a nearby lake.
The story is told through the eyes of Ted, a childlike hermit that lives at the end of the street. His cat tells the story of herself and the Ted that she lives with. However, there is a third perspective! That of Dee, the sister of the missing girl.
Sometimes Lauren tells the story too.
I have to say, this story blew me away with it’s intricate plotting and off kilter writing style. You never really get a grasp on what is happening all the way through the story until the last quarter of the book.
From the very start, Catriona Ward introduces a sense of creeping unease and plays with your view of the reality of the story. You can sense that something is at play throughout each individual perspective, but you are never wholly sure what is actually happening as she carefully places each jigsaw piece of the plot together.
Each of the characters are so sublimely written. Ted is superbly creepy, especially when he tells the story from his perspective, giving his almost childlike exposition of events. Olivia the cat is very cat like and has a simple view of the events, and Dee is driven to find the truth of what is happening and is willing to go to any length to gain the truth of her sister’s disappearance.
However, it is the sheer brilliance of the writing that blew me away.
For one, you are never sure if the events that each character is telling you is reliable. Time is fluid in the story, and it can take you a while to realise that part of the story that is being told may be at some point in the past. Each reality of the story is hazy and at times even hallucinatory.
In amongst all that, the truth of what is actually happening is elastically pliable and changes each time a clue is added to the pile as Catriona Ward carefully feeds you another layer to the story. However, even when you have that layer to the plot, you are never sure where it actually fits, and it is this disjointed approach to the story that makes it all the more impenetrably ingenious.
Now, when you read a book like this that is full of puzzles, people will tell you that ‘I got what was happening straight away’ or ‘I could see it coming’. And yes, I have to say that I worked out one little aspect of the puzzle at some point. However, that is the sheer cleverness of the book, Catriona Ward does give you that one piece of the puzzle, but then she plays with it, rocks your understanding of it, turns it around and makes you doubt the steppingstone that you have placed your foot on in the ever flowing torrent of plot is safe or whether you are going to fall in and get washed away.
I think one of the questions that I asked myself throughout the story is whether this is a tale of horror or is it a thriller. And do you know what, ultimately, I didn’t care as it fits firmly into both. The horror is there in a very gothic sense; the mausoleum of Ted’s house providing that very gothic backdrop, the way that Catriona Ward piles on that feeling of unease and disquiet all the way through the story. And added to that there are some extremely disturbing events that happen in the book. However, there are some very overt thriller elements that fit the tone of the story extremely well.
However, intrinsically, The Last House on Needless Street is a tale of survival. A testament of how the human spirit can shine, even in the most darkest of places and eventually emerge from that darkness to carry on, to live!
If you want a gloriously creepy novel that will confound you at every point, then seek out The Last House on Needless Street.