*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: parental death, sexual assault/rape, drug/substance abuse, mentions of suicide, mentions of non-descript mental illnesses, gaslighting, parental neglect
I’ve been slowly but surely drifting into a territory of picking up one book after another revolving around what sounded like haunted houses, but with a much more complex stories underneath. I am not quite sure what draws me to these kind of books, but Kirsten Miller managed to create a wonderfully creepy ambiance reminiscent of gothic classics. There’s an unease in the house and especially in the beginning, you have no idea what to expect from it. As often as the people of Louth keep saying that they don’t believe in ghosts, it still seems like something is off about the manor.
People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.
When you first meet Bram, it becomes instantly apparent that something bad has happened to her. Even without knowing the details, you just know. That girl has built up a wall of defense a mile high and while that was completely understandable considering her history and upbringing, it still felt irritating during some earlier points in the story. The way she went from starting to like and warm up to people to completely distrusting them and looking for weapons to defend herself in case of an emergency could give you whiplash, although I again want to stress that it makes sense because of her past. But still, as long as you don’t know her, it makes it hard to warm up to her entirely sometimes. Her reasons for wanting to be in the manor so badly kind of eluded me at first, because I did not completely understand her obsession with what happened, but then this also gets explained and uncovered. I think one of the main objectives with the book is to just stick with it and things will eventually get resolved.
Aside from Bram, there was an assortment of interesting characters, all keeping you on your toes the entire time. I feel like we could have gotten to know a couple of them better, but with Lark’s wall up, you get most of your information through second-hand gossip and later confrontations. Trust is a scare commodity in Louth, especially with so many girls having vanished and/or died in the small community over the years. However, my initial feeling for most people was correct, which either made the novel predictable or my gut instinct is just rocking.
Overall, I enjoyed many of the twists and was far from guessing everything. I felt a certain distance to the characters and the story for a long time, but it did all come together in the end. Some might say it came together a bit too conveniently, but I didn’t mind that too much. Just be prepared for a story full of gaslighting and people blaming mental illness for all sorts of things, without anyone being diagnosed or actually having a mental illness in some cases. It can easily rub you the wrong way, but is a huge part of exposing who the good and bad guys are in this story.
Fazit: 3/5 stars! A whirlwind of a resolution!