The house hides a sinister past and a dangerous present: Directions for Dark Things by Stephanie Sowden #DirectionsforDarkThings #NetGalley

Something peculiar is going on at The Lloyd Estate. The enormous house and its vast grounds are rarely seen by outsiders. Only Audrey Lloyd – the cantankerous elderly owner and only daughter to the famed movie mogul who built the mansion – knows of the suffocating darkness that has settled on the place. Property developers have come to Audrey over the decades. Countless times they have been rebuffed. Now, she agrees to sell to ambitious broker Terri Nicholls. But Terri has to trade something of her own in return. Detective Don Vernon is on the brink of retirement. Instead, he is about to be caught in a web of lies; one which Audrey has been spinning for decades. Can those who cross the threshold make it out again intact? A scintillating tale of revenge, cruelty and the many forms of wickedness, Directions for Dark Things is perfect for fans of Catriona Ward and Simone St. James.

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Hi and welcome to my review of Directions for Dark Things!

Stay tuned while I try to make sense of my thoughts and feelings about this one.

First of all, with that title and that cover and that blurb, I went in with expectations of a dark and moody book with a superbly atmospheric setting. It wasn’t. At least, I didn’t think so. Maybe my expectations were off, maybe I wanted too much, but I never really fell under this book’s spell. The mansion was just a stuffy house, not the delightfully gothic, creaky mansion it could have been, and should have been. And I kept waiting for all those dark things, but alas, I’m still waiting.

Secondly, I’m a mood reader and going in with the abovementioned expectations meant that I was in the mood for such a book, a dark contemporary thriller. I did not expect a large portion of the story to be historical fiction set in the years before WWII. I do love hist fic, I just wasn’t in the mood for it, which meant that it took me a while to warm to this storyline. Also, I dunno, it just felt rather random? Exploring Audrey’s memories, which is essentially what this storyline is, didn’t seem to add much to the story, or to Audrey as a character.

The reference to Catriona Ward and Simone St. James didn’t help, I’m sure. I’m a huge fan of both and quite frankly, I fail to see how these authors’ books compare to this one, in vibe, in writing, in story, in anything, really. That’s not to say Directions for Dark Things is a bad book, I just think it wasn’t really fair to the author to reference such queens of all things gothic and creepy.

To be fair, I have seen other reviewers describe this book as creepy. I, however, felt the creeps on only one single occasion, but at that point I was already past the halfway mark and it was just too little too late. I can recognise the elements that were supposed to be creepy, but all I felt was, well, annoyance at first, and later something like compassion, mostly. I can’t say more without giving too much away. It just feels like there were so many missed opportunities, including the reveals, that were supposed to be chilling, I guess, but to me were either quite predictable or rather random.

I’m afraid I’m sounding very negative. I don’t really mean to be. I think if you go in with the right expectations, you might enjoy it more than I did. For me, however, it mostly missed the mark.

Directions for Dark Things is out in digital formats and hardcover on 25 January.

Thanks to Canelo and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

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