Erma Bridges’ life is far from perfect, but entirely ordinary. So when she is shot twice in a targeted attack by a colleague, her quiet existence is shattered in an instant.
With her would-be murderer dead, no one can give Erma the answers she needs to move on from her trauma. Why her? Why now?
So begins Erma’s quest for the truth – and a dangerous, spiralling journey into the heart of darkness.
With all the inventiveness of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and the raw brutality of Mulholland Drive, THE SPIRAL is a unique crime thriller with killer twists – and 2020’s most jaw-dropping ending.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Spiral!
I was so excited about this book! It seemed like the perfect fit for me, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be…
With the blurb mentioning The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, I was all in! Having now read The Spiral, I do feel mentioning Evelyn Hardcastle is a bit of an insult to Stuart Turton. I’m the first to admit that, just like Evelyn Hardcastle, The Spiral is inventive and original, but where the former was confusing in a clever, intriguing, mysterious way, leading to a mind-blowing reveal, the latter was confusing all the way through in a way that got on my nerves, leading to a weird and not very woman-friendly finale, and having finished it I’m none the wiser.
Erma Bridges is a researcher working full-time on her book about young adult fiction, she has well and truly turned an obsession into a career and she’s on track to become the youngest associate professor. As the story kicks off, Erma is flying back to Australia to attend a meeting assembled because someone, she suspects her assistant Jenny, has been badmouthing her to HR. Flying in from Spain she’s severely jetlagged and, unfortunately, that’s the way that first part reads, like trying to follow the thoughts of a sleep-deprived person. It might be interesting, but part of you is thinking: what the hell is going on, slow DOWN – and by the end of it I kinda needed a nap myself.
For part two we skip to ten months later, Erma has recovered, physically at least, from being shot at, and after she’s given her shooter’s possessions, she’s trying to figure out what on earth possessed her would-be murderer. Still, the narrative has a sort of abrupt, jittery character. I was intrigued but the writing style made it rather difficult for me to get into the story and stay there.
The story is told in the present tense with the POV alternating between Erma in the first person singular and Sero in the second person singular. At first I had no clue what the Sero chapters were about. They read like an utterly strange combination of a game of Dungeons & Dragons, a weird dream and severe psychological problems. It felt like anything was possible and I didn’t quite know what to do what them. Eventually I decided the best way to go about this book was to stop trying to figure it out, and just go with the flow.
The Spiral is hands down the weirdest book I’ve read all year. It had its enjoyable moments, when I managed to ride the confusion and not let it bug me. It’s a quick read, I flew through it, although admittedly I did skim parts of it. It has an interactive chapter that I really liked. It’s just a really weird mix of thriller and fantasy, which usually works for me, but The Spiral didn’t quite pull it off. I can handle weird and confusing but I hate feeling this confused after finishing a book. Or maybe I’m too dim to get it? I won’t rule it out, but then again, if one loves Blake Crouch, one should pretty much be able to handle any mind-boggling story out there I daresay. One thing’s for sure: for me this was hit-and-miss, but mostly miss. I dithered between two and three stars for the longest time, but considering my three-star reads this year, awarding The Spiral three stars seemed too generous and in good conscience I just couldn’t do it.
If you’re at all tickled by any of the above, and looking for a shot of bookish quirkiness to finish the year, then by all means check out The Spiral and don’t let my confusion stop you!
The Spiral is out on the 24th! Thanks to Zaffre Books and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.