My enormous thanks to the folk at Viper Books for sending me a surprise copy of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward in return for an honest review.
Published by Sceptre imprint Viper on 18th March 2021, The Last House on Needless Street is available for pre-order here.
The Last House on Needless Street
This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…
My Review of The Last House on Needless Street
Good gracious me. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to review The Last House on Needless Street because I’m not quite sure what it is I’ve just read! Part horror story, part thriller, part psychological exploration, this is a book that defies categorisation but that is utterly spellbinding. I thought it was stunning. Indeed, I found it such a mind blowing concept that reading it felt like being on some kind of fairground ride where you don’t quite know where you are or what perspective you’re viewing. I had to keep pausing so that my brain could catch up with my eyes as I read. Catriona Ward’s writing is so brilliant that The Last House on Needless Street is a book that feels like a malevolent, sentient being in its own right and yet it has compassion and empathy threaded throughout it in a heady blend.
The plot in The Last House on Needless Street is astonishing. Akin to the Russian dolls on Ted’s mantlepiece that have many layers, in the narrative strata and meanings are complex and varied, adding layer upon layer of interest and captivating the reader completely. There is a linear timeline, especially through Dee’s subplot as she searches for her sister, but it is interspersed with elements that make it kaleidoscopic, shifting perceptions and providing an absolutely mesmerising reading experience. Much of the time I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, which meant I was compelled to continue reading to see if my theories were correct and to find out how the book might be resolved. This illustrates real power in the writing and I have a feeling The Last House on Needless Street will resonate with me for a very long time.
Ted’s character is so well drawn. He exemplifies a horrifying potential in all of us. It’s not possible to say too much about him as this would uncover too much of the heart of the book and spoil the read for others. If I say I hated him, I loved him, I feared him, I wanted to protect him and rail against him you’ll perhaps get some idea of the complexity of human nature Catriona Ward builds into him.
Similarly, it isn’t fair to other readers to articulate too much about theme, but identity, love, guilt, truth, loyalty, fear, control and so much more are woven by Catriona Ward into this complex, touching and enlightening story. The Last House on Needless Street is not so much a book to read as one to experience. It left me stunned.
Aware that I have hardly scratched the surface of The Last House on Needless Street because I don’t want to give away too much, I must mention the overall quality of the writing. It is beautiful. Even at its most brutal or horrific it is exquisite. The senses zing from the page so that the reader is transported into Ted’s world and particularly Olivia’s. There’s a visual quality that is filmic too so that The Last House on Needless Street can be experienced by the reader in many ways.
I thought The Last House on Needless Street was original, hypnotic and, for a story that is quite brutal, incredibly tender too. I loved it and really recommend that you read it to discover its secrets for yourself!
About Catriona Ward
Image courtesy of Robert Hollingworth
Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. Her debut Rawblood won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Little Eve won the Shirley Jackson Award, was a Guardian best book of 2018 and won the Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. She lives in London and Devon.