Friday 11 February 2022

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville BLOG TOUR #TheHouseOfAshes @stuartneville @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #BookReview


For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance. A new country. A new house. A new beginning with her husband Damien.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can't understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home. She remembers the fire, and the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her, whom she must protect.

'The children will find you,' she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. Sara soon becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago - the tragic, bloody night her husband never intended for her to discover. And Mary - silent for six decades - is finally ready to tell her story . . .

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville was published in hardback on 3 February 2022 by Zaffre. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour organised by Tracy from Compulsive Readers.

We are only six weeks into 2022 and I have read some of the finest crime fiction of my life. The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville is one of those books.  It is utterly compelling, dark, violent and chilling. It's a story that haunted my dreams and continues to linger, days after I finished it. 

If you prefer your crime fiction on the cosy side, with no violence and prefer not to be emotionally challenged, then this book is probably not for you. If, like me, you are a fan of those authors who push the boundaries, the writers who are prepared to challenge and to be challenging and do not shy away from the real cruelties of humankind, then you are in for an extra special treat. 

The story revolves around The Ashes; a large house in the rural countryside in the north of Ireland and is narrated in two voices. Mary Jackson relives her time in The Ashes over sixty years ago, whilst Sara Keane is living there in the current day. The Ashes has been totally renovated after a fire which destroyed the original building, but it's clear that the ghosts that haunt the building are still around. 

Sara Keane is English. She and her husband Damian have relocated to his birth place after his father bought the Ashes and gifted it to them. Sara is uneasy in The Ashes, she feels something there that she cannot describe. Given the controlling hold that her husband has over her, and how he and his father are feared locally, Sara is terribly unhappy. Constantly remembering how she used to be, before she took the pills. 

When elderly Mary Jackson appears on the doorstep, barefoot and bleeding from the soles of her feet, shouting about 'the children', Sara becomes more and more disturbed. Damian will not talk to her about the history of the house, he prefers to frighten her instead. 

Neville cleverly interweaves the two timelines and as the horrors that Mary endured as a child unfold, and Sara's life becomes increasingly desperate, the reader begins to link together the terrible secrets of the past with the current day. 

The author has been very ambitious here, as a male author giving voices to two female characters and done with such grace and style, and apparent ease. This makes for uncomfortable, and often disturbing images being conjured up to the reader. There are themes of cruelty, control and extreme distress that runs through the story like blood in the veins. 

With hints of the supernatural, alongside events that are truly, and quite sadly, certainly of the human world, this is a novel that has left a lasting impression on me. It's a story that is told with respect and empathy, but is often brutal. Highly recommended, will certainly be amongst my top books of this year. 

Stuart Neville's debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF
BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart's novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

No comments:

Post a Comment