BOOK REVIEW: House of Small Shadows

Adam Nevill enjoys scaring his readers with creepy imagery from scary buildings in ‘Apartment 16’ to occult goings on in ‘Banquet for the Damned’, is this set to continue in ‘House of Small Shadows’? Read my review below to see what his latest scare tactic is, and if it is as successful as his previous books.

AUTHOR: Adam Nevill
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
371 pages

They watch you while you sleep . . .

The Red House: home to the damaged genius of the late M. H. Mason, master taxidermist and puppeteer, where he lived and created some of his most disturbing works. The building and its treasure trove of antiques is long forgotten, but the time has come for his creations to rise from the darkness.

Catherine Howard can’t believe her luck when she’s invited to value the contents of the house. When she first sees the elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals and macabre puppets, she’s both thrilled and terrified. It’s an opportunity to die for.

But the Red House has secrets, secrets as dreadful and dark as those from Catherine’s own past. At night the building comes alive with noises and movements: footsteps, and the fleeting glimpses of small shadows on the stairs. And soon the barriers between reality, sanity and nightmare begin to collapse . . .

House of Small Shadows

Catherine Howard is trying to get over both her last job and demons from her past. She believes that her luck has finally changed when a new project is given to her – that of cataloguing the collection of the late M.H. Mason’s antique dolls and puppets. However the thing that excites her the most is seeing his rare collection of scenes from World War Two, made of various posed, costumed and preserved animals ranging from rats to cats. M.H. Mason was known for being eccentric and possibly even insane, and his collection has been hidden away and protected by his elderly niece until now.

Amazed by the huge collection of dolls and puppets, Catherine thinks her luck has finally changed, until she sees the animal scenes and is horrified by them, they haunt her dreams and soon she starts believing that she can hear the patter of tiny feet in the night, and small shadows on the stairs. However, Catherine will soon discover that the truth is even more terrifying as she tries desperately to hang onto her own sanity.

As a fan of Adam Nevill I was really looking forward to this book – I mean a book about puppets and stuffed animals coming alive in the night is always going to send a shiver down my spine.

Catherine is an interesting character and we learn about her disturbing past gradually as the book goes on, giving you more and more insight into her delicate psyche. The plot builds slowly which helps to build up the tension, and atmosphere. Nevill’s descriptions are brilliant, meaning you are just as creeped out as Catherine is when she’s in the same room as the puppets and dolls, also when Catherine finally gets to see the tabu of the World War Two animals, you feel like you are seeing these awful scenes too.

House of Small Shadows is full of twists and turns, but for me in the end, the book just didn’t quite fully deliver. The plot goes off on a rather strange tangent that I found at times was quite hard to follow.  The end felt drawn out and a bit of a disappointment, in fact when I finished the book I felt a little confused as I still wasn’t completely sure what had happened.

However another original novel from Adam Nevill that starts off well but is let down a little by a plot that becomes more confusing as the novel reaches its end. Not one of my favourite Nevill books, but I would still recommend that you give it a go, just for the mental images and nightmares of posed and moving animals alone. 

House of Small Shadows is not a book to read on your own late at night.

Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: darkphoenix1701

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