Spectacular Thriller In House of Slaughter: The Woman In The Dark by Vanessa Savage [bookreview]
The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage
The Woman in the Dark should be sold with a health warning emblazoned across its cover.
Readers deserve to be cautioned that it’s such an addictive novel they will want to sacrifice domestic chores and forgo sleep until they reach the final pages.
As you’d expect with a thriller, it has a cracking pace and oodles of twists and turns. But Vanessa Savage has done something far more interesting than simply trotting out the standard elements of the genre. Within her chillingly dark tale of a family in crisis, she spins a disturbing narrative about the legacy of child abuse.
The Woman in the Dark begins on a day that seems just an ordinary one for a rather ordinary family. But the tensions become quickly apparent. Mum Sarah is suffering from a deep depression as a result of her mother’s death. She’s taken to drink to help dull the pain but her cocktail of alcohol and anti depressant tablets leave her feeling spaced out and unable to function. They need a fresh start according to her loving and caring husband Patrick.
So he persuades her to move home, to buy the Victorian beachfront house in which he grew up. It’s the ideal spot in which to raise their two teenage children Joe and Mia, he argues.
Conveniently he overlooks the fact that this house is where a brutal double murder took place 15 years ago. The Murder House, as the locals call it, is now a dilapidated shell of its former self. Patrick is convinced they can make it as perfect a home as it was in his childhood. No-one else in the family shares his optimism for the peeling paint, rattling windowpanes and unexplained cold spots in some rooms.
And that’s before they are even aware of the creepy messages on the cellar wall.
From these elements Vanessa Savage has created an intense and deeply disturbing novel about lies, secrets and buried tensions.
No-one comes out of this intact. Certainly not Sarah who becomes obsessed by the murder and perturbed by what she discovers about Patrick’s past. Definitely not Patrick whose moods swing from concern for Sarah’s wellbeing to uncontrollable anger. Nor their children who suffer nightmares and physical trauma as their parents’ marriage disintegrates.
This is a novel in which nothing – and no-one – can be trusted. Is Sarah right to imagine the house is a malevolent force? Does she have good reason to suspect Patrick is a threat to her and her children? The only version of events we hear is Sarah’s and given her propensity to become confused and muddled, the problems could all be in her mind.
The Woman in the Dark is a spectacularly strong debut novel.
Vanessa Savage writes with such confidence that you quickly overcome doubts that any sane adult would want to live in a house whose previous occupants were slaughtered. It’s not a book to enjoy (unless you like to revel in other people’s misery) but it’s certainly one in which you can become engrossed.
About the book
The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage was published in January 2019 by Sphere in the UK and by Grand Central Publishing in the USA.
About the Author
Vanessa Savage trained as a graphic designer and illustrator. She lives with her family in South Wales (just down the road from me I just discovered 🙂 She has won the Myriad Editions First Crimes competition and was shortlisted for the Caledonia Fiction Prize.
Look out for an interview with Vanessa when she joins me in Cwtch Corner next month.
13 thoughts on “Spectacular Thriller In House of Slaughter: The Woman In The Dark by Vanessa Savage [bookreview]”
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Wow! I’ve never heard you this enthusiastic about a thriller. I should definitely pick this one up.
It’s true, I seldom read thrillers so when I do they have to be worth it….
This sounds unique and very interesting. Thanks for the review.
Makes me think of The Amityville Horror.
I’ve heard of the film but never watched it so don’t feel able to judge really…
The movie was based on a book by Jay Anson, which was a good read for me during my teen years. I saw the movie first…it might have been the best haunted house movie of the 70. Plus, my pastor looked like the dad from the movie so that added some personal tension for me. 😆
I bet you could never take his sermons as seriously after that….
Might have to try this one. When you interview her I would like to know if she reads Joyce Carol Oates. Your review put me in mind of some of her novels.
I’m sure Vanessa will be more than delighted with that comparison