This debut is an unusual and highly effective thriller. There’s been good buzz about it pre-publication. This was one of the titles I highlighted to watch out for in my Looking Back Looking Forward post. We were promised a Gothic spooky house novel with comparisons made to Shirley Jackson. I’m not sure I am on board with the comparison although it was this which attracted me to the title. It is, however, highly enjoyable with a more original feel than the comparison might suggest.
Set in 2005 (judging by songs mentioned playing on the radio) just south of New Orleans, main character 11 year old Elise, having lost both her parents in an accident, escapes from her foster carers to return to a house her family formerly lived in now owned by the Mason family with two teenage boys. There, unbeknownst to them she resides in the house, within gaps between walls, in hidden chutes and in the attic emerging when the family are not around or otherwise occupied. This is working chillingly well until a younger boy turns up unannounced at the house and the teenagers in the family begin to have suspicions about the things going bump in the night.
I found the premise fascinating but did struggle with the geography of the house which would allow such a thing to be possible. The tension is cranked up incredibly well when the boys begin to act on their suspicions and then environmental factors, particular to the region, begin to play a part.
As I was reading it I was aware of an easy option Texan author Gnuse could have taken and I was hoping he wouldn’t (he doesn’t) which means the story-telling is satisfactory throughout. There are lots of unusual touches, including Elise’s fondness for Norse mythology and the characters of the neighbourhood boy and Eddie, the younger of the teenagers both give the novel a quirky feel (as does one character I don’t even want to talk about here in the interest of not revealing too much plot). I was pulled in to the story, rather like Elise being pulled into the walls, found some section breath-takingly tense and all in all this ends up a quality commercial thriller with good literary touches which could also work splendidly as a TV or film adaptation.
Girl In The Walls will be published by 4th Estate in the UK on 18th March 2021. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.