Over the summer, I read several books in the psychological suspense/thriller/unreliable female narrators genre. (Not sure what the actual term for the genre is!) I was trolling through my library’s Overdrive looking for books, and this one piqued my interest initially because I liked the cover art–I’m a big fan of the sort of artistically stylized covers, and also of creepy houses. The blurb also seemed like something I’d like to read: a historical fiction take on the thriller genre.
The premise is that new bride and newly pregnant Elsie has also become a new widow. She reluctantly leaves the comfort of London for her husband’s country estate to help sort out his affairs. Her husband’s cousin, Sarah, is her only companion besides the household staff–that is, until Elsie and Sarah discover the Silent Companions, painted wooden figures with a mysterious past. Elsie and Sarah try to solve the mystery of the Companions, which is tied to an old diary from the Stuart period.
There’s a few different timelines that go on here, as well as some revelations from the (various) past(s), but it’s not too complicated to follow.
The book seems to have gotten a lot of good press, and I don’t think that it’s necessarily undeserved. The problem is–and this is more a problem for me now writing this review than while I was reading the book–that the antagonistic force is just a bit… well, silly. Basically, they are being chased around by wooden figures. Spooooky, malevolent wooden figures. I suppose there is some physical danger in that Elsie’s husband’s mysterious death seems to have involved splinters, and Sarah gets a splinter that won’t heal–no, wait, that sounds utterly ridiculous when you write it out. In fact, I think it says a lot about the author that a good amount of tension was sustained throughout from this wooden antagonistic force, though I think a lot of that actually comes from interactions with the various other members of the household.
I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I read it quickly and it kept my interest (and I didn’t really think about the ridiculousness of the whole thing until much later), so I also wouldn’t warn anyone away from it. The ending was pretty interesting, and more importantly, didn’t make me throw up my hands in frustration. A pretty solid 3 star book.
As a side note, I read The Turn of the Screw after this (review upcoming) and I think this one is definitely in that Gothic horror kind of genre, if you like it. It certainly frustrated me less than The Turn of the Screw…