The Easton family has just moved into their new fixer-upper, a beautiful old house that they bought at a steal, and Alice, the youngest of the family, is excited to explore the strange, new place. Her excitement turns to growing dread as she discovers a picture hidden under the old wallpaper, a child’s drawing of a family just like hers. Soon after, members of the family begin to disappear, each victim marked on the child’s drawing with a dark black X. It’s up to her to unlock the grim mystery of the house before she becomes the next victim.
Hi and welcome to my stop on the One By One blog tour! As always: all my thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for another beautiful (yet creepy as hell) review copy!
This book. I don’t even know where to begin. It took me places I wasn’t expected to be taken. It looked like one thing but it turned out to be another, and I’m not sure, I’m very unsure really, what I can tell you, how I can explain to you what it was that made me love this book, without ruining the experience.
So let’s start at the beginning, which is a bit of dilapidated house in a remote area, it’s very large and it has the weirdest lay-out, because various owners have been building onto it throughout the years. There’s a bedroom with windows that look into another room instead of outside, there are hallways that double-back on themselves, it’s a very eerie place. The author says that the house is based on an actual house where he used to live as a teenager and that had such windows and hallways. Rumour had it that the place was haunted, but Mr Gillespie never spotted any ghosts, only felt the eeriness of it. With that knowledge the story came alive even more, even though everything else is fiction (or I sincerely hope so, anyway)
Moving into this house is a family of four and their cat. We see what happens through the eyes of Alice. It was Alice’s dad who fell in love with the house, finding it unique, in contrast to all the little tickytacky boxes on the hillside that all look just the same (oh come on, you did watch Weeds, right?!). Alice can see its charm, but her mother and older brother are less than enthusiastic. But then things start coming apart at the seams (of course they do, what did you expect?!) and this loving family starts falling apart. There is so much creepy stuff going on. There’s a child’s drawing of a family and their dog on the wall and suddenly the little dog figure is crossed out and everyone denies having done it. Alice is afraid that the family on the wall represents her own, and when she goes searching frantically for her cat, she can’t find him… The situation deteriorates rapidly. Alice’s dad is less the goofy good-spirited man she’s always know and much more of a snarling bully and I had visions of The Shining, hoping there wouldn’t be any “here’s Johnny” moments because I loved Alice and if something had to happen to her, I didn’t want it to be done to her by her dad! When the snow starts to fall, the family is effectively cut off from the rest of the world and Alice becomes more and more obsessed with the diary she’s found that belongs to Mary, the girl who lived in the house before. Something happened to Mary and Alice is desperate to find out what because she just knows that what happened to Mary in the past is having an impact on Alice’s own family in the present.
One By One starts out as an eerie, atmospheric ghost story. Even when I was reading it in broad daylight, it still gave me goose bumps: although my body was sitting in the sun, my mind was dwelling in a dark and spooky house in the middle of nowhere. The author has a way with words, you’re carried into the story and you feel like you’re a character, a very useless and highly voyeuristic one at that, I admit, but still, it feels like you’re there. Towards the ending, it lost some of its spooky atmosphere and gained a more horroresque feel when the story took a turn I wasn’t expecting at all and I got a glimpse of a very disturbed mind. The ending is calm and understated and got to me in an entirely different manner.
This was my first Gillespie novel, but it will most definitely not be my last! Recommended for #Spooktober and any other month of the year!
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