Something fun came in the mail this week!
I'm a big fan of Erin Kelly, the British suspense author whom Stephen King has compared to ?Daphne du Maurier?. Kelly's first novel, The Poison Tree, was described as "a stunning debut" in BookPage's January 2011 issue. "Veteran mystery fans looking for nail-biting thrills will find plenty that is fresh and surprising about The Poison Tree, and Kelly’s masterful plotting and intricately crafted story make the comparisons to Tana French and Donna Tartt well-deserved." I'll add that it's a story that definitely keeps you guessing, and the characters drag you in from the very beginning. This was one that kept me planted firmly on my couch on a Friday after work, reading late into the night.
I was happy with Kelly's equally creepy follow-up, The Dark Rose, which also explored obsessive relationships and gnawing secrets.
The Burning Air looks to be cut from the same cloth. The MacBride family seems to lead the perfect life—the patriarch is the headmaster of a prestigious English private school. But is the matriarch a murderer? Find out on February 21.
The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking • $26.95 • on sale February 6, 2012
Her follow-up, The Dark Rose, is just as creepy (filled with characters that are just as obsessive). In it, Paul and Louisa start a secret affair against the backdrop of an old Elizabethan garden. Paul was involved in a murder and ratted out his friend to avoid prison—and Louisa has some secrets of her own surrounding a man from her past named Adam. Louisa is renovating the garden, and she meets Paul when he's appointed to work there after his confession. They are connected from the moment they meet, because Paul looks eerily like Adam.
Here's an excerpt, from when Louisa first sees Paul (and mistakes him for Adam):
Louisa turned her attention back to the ruin. No matter how many times she saw it she could never quite commit the pattern of its stalagmites to memory. She let her hands trail along the damp walls, fingers lingering in ancient graffiti faded to indecipherable rune marks, wondering as ever who had stood here before her, what they had seen, and how faithfully she would be able to re-create their view. How light her workload would be if walls had mouths as well as ears, if these old stones could guide her through her project.
She did not expect anyone else to be up on the knoll and turned a bind corner without looking, head butting a chest that was at her eye level. She took a step back and so did he, his automatic "Sorry" gaining hers. Louisa raised her eyes. The apology died on her lips as she looked into the face of Adam Glasslake.
She gulped air that was like ice water, as though she'd been running on a freezing day. Her first thought was that the strength of her longing had finally called him into being, that she had conjured his spirit. For a ghost it had to be: Adam had not aged a day, and automatically, pathetically, she put her hand up to her own cheek, conscious of how different she must look to him, how old. But his breath misted the air like hers did, and his chest, when it collided with her forehead, had been warm. This was no face in a cloud, no phantom reflection. Confused, frightened, she flattened herself against the uneven wall, fingers splayed against the stone. Adam looked even more terrified than she.
Last week, Eliza posted a shout-out to creepy debut novel The Poison Tree, citing its surprising, disturbing twists as a major plus. Over the weekend I read something sinister myself—John Fowles' The Collector.
As a person who read Flowers in the Attic (and its many sequels) and much of Stephen King's oeuvre in elementary school, I consider my creep threshold to be rather high, but something about The Collector really got under my skin. If you haven't read it, the book—Fowles' first published novel—is an abduction story that seems classic now but was actually one of the early takes on the topic when it was published in 1963.
The basic story: Frederick Clegg sets his sights on a beautiful young art student, Miranda Grey. He captures her and hides her in the cellar of a country house, with only a vague idea of where he'll go from there. The story is told in three parts, going from the point of view of Clegg to Miranda's captivity journal and returning to Clegg for the chilling final section.
Clegg's narration is unsettling for the way he presents horrible deeds in a matter-of-fact, seemingly logical manner, rationalizing his dream world and twisted desires. In a pitch-perfect counterpoint, Miranda's journal explores the psychological effects of being kept prisoner, and her gradual realization of how much she wants to live, with heart-rending thoroughness—though if you're like me, you'll have to put the book down for a while to think happy thoughts after completing the first section. Fans of Room who wanted more on the grimmer aspects of being held captive, The Collector is your book. Just make sure you have something cheery to do afterward.
I linked to the book trailer for The Poison Tree a couple weeks ago, and I thought you'd be interested in this follow-up. I got my hands on the novel (Erin Kelly's debut) last week and finished the novel yesterday.
It is fantastic—a dark, sultry, obsessive love story/thriller with some very disturbing twists. Here's a bit more from The Poison Tree's review in BookPage:
Perfectly paced, it starts with a bang and teems with twists that will keep you guessing right up until its thrilling and shocking conclusion. Kelly masterfully ratchets up the suspense, constantly causing readers to reappraise what is true as well as which dark and dirty secret will be unearthed next, all while nimbly maneuvering back and forth in time to keep tensions running high.
Have you read this novel? What new releases have been calling your name?
We gave you a preview of Erin Kelly's debut, The Poison Tree, way back in September—and I don't know about you, but I was sold from the moment the book was mentioned in the same sentence as Donna Tartt.
Here's a preview of the novel, which is on sale today:
Take the phone off the hook and cancel your evening plans, because this is one book you’ll want to read from cover to cover in order to see how everything shakes out