Published 8 January 2015 by Little, Brown Book Group UK
Number of pages: 369
My rating: ★ ★ It was OK
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She's a nobody; she has no-one and that's how she wants it.
But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else's - or so she thought.
Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she's to have any chance of happiness, she has to return to her old life and confront the darkness that worked its way inside her family and has pursued her ever since.
Strikingly atmospheric and compelling, this psychological thriller is about one woman's search for the truth in a closed community full of dark secrets."
The Crooked House is the 10th novel published by English writer Christobel Kent.
It is a whodunit psychological thriller written mainly in the third person, mostly from the point of view of the main character, Alison/Esme Grace, the sole survivor of a family massacre 13 years earlier.
The narration moves from the present, to the recent past and to events much further back, as we follow Alison's trains of thought and memories.
The story is interesting, atmospheric and brooding, and it unfolds in non-linear stages, with twists, blind turns and new revelations, during 4 days, when Alison finds herself back in the the village she had fled when her family was murdered.
The character of Alison is well developed and realistic, as are most of the other peripheral personas.
The topics of trust and interpersonal relationships are paramount; who can you trust at work in a big city, your co-workers? Or in a small isolated village, the close-knit locals or the outsiders? Can you ever leave your past behind?
The clues are there, at each step, and quite early on I had put together most of the pieces, hence for me there weren't any big revelations at the end. All was explained, however the biggest plot hole for me is the timeline itself. Why is this happening 13 years later, when Alison is 27 years old? Why not sooner?
All in all this was fundamentally a very good story, and the presentation itself could have been used to great effect to create a truly unique and engaging page turner. Unfortunately, this book completely missed its mark in its delivery.
The writing style was tortuous, difficult to follow, it often seemed to lack the correct orthographical structure. Often sentences were convoluted and void of easily comprehensible meaning. The language felt pretentious and repetitive at times (for example, you can play a drinking game based on the word "eddy"). It took me a long time to finish this piece.
Time frames were also too muddled, it was a struggle to figure out when the events being portrayed had actually occurred and who the protagonists were. There was virtually no demarcation between switches in time. One moment you would be in the present and the next you would find yourself reliving an earlier conversation, to then switch back to the present and swiftly find yourself 10 years the past.
The Crooked House could have been great, but ended up just being ok.
(ARC received via Netgalley)