Despite the family sleeping off their busy day, the house didn’t fall silent. Water pipes from the attic space banged together; cased by a worn seal on a faucet valve. The television, recently unwrapped from a bundle of blankets in the living room, occasionally creaked for no reason. A dripping noise constant tapped the sink in the kitchen – another issue with a faulty seal which would be easily fixed when the family had the time to do so. Worst of the noises though was the one which started halfway through the night when the family was in a deep sleep. The sound of the floorboards creaking underfoot and then…3.30am. The sound of the door to the spare room closing and – finally – the sound of deafening silence.
I love a ghost story. I grabbed this for a quick Halloween read and I was so blown away by it I need you all to read it immediately. A family, Jess and Dean and their two daughters Sophie and Caroline, move into a new bigger house. They got a good deal on the property because the owner was after a quick sale. As part of due diligence the estate agent informed them that the owner’s wife had suicided in the spare room of the house. Having discussed it they decided they were still comfortable with the purchase and agreed not to speak or think about it. But having moved in the history of the house, the loneliness of the woman who died there and the grief of her husband, becomes all too hard to ignore.
“I’m worried about Sophie,” Jess said, “I think we need to take her to a specialist.” It hadn’t been the first time they had discussed the prospect of taking her to see someone. Dean had admitted it would be a good idea, once they were settled into the new home, to try and find her some help with regards to the dreams she was having. Now Sophie was seeing things when she was awake, Dean felt the same as Jess; waiting may no longer be an option. Especially given the things she was supposedly seeing was fueling the paranoia both parents were feeling about living in a property where someone had taken their own life for whatever reason.
Shaw writes in a strange style, almost giving too much information. He also has a habit of using brackets. You’re going to think this is another one of my strange punctuation aversions, like my exclamation mark issue, but I really don’t think the brackets add anything. In most cases the words within them could be removed without changing the meaning or robbing anything from the sentence. Your results on this may vary. The rising dread Shaw evokes is perfect and you will definitely not see the twist at the end coming.
A House in the Country: A Psychological Horror, Matt Shaw: three and a half stars.
Read it for: a quick, legitimately scary ghost story, an author with a remarkable gift for sleight of hand.