I originally saw this book recommended on r/horrorlit a couple of months ago, when I was trying to branch out into different genres. I’m not sure I’d really classify this as horror – psychological fiction might be more apt. It’s better to go into this book with as little information on the plot as possible, so I’ll do my best to keep this review spoiler-free.
The basic plot set up: Years ago, a little girl went missing. Her sister is looking for the person responsible, and settles on Ted, a weirdo who lives in a boarded up house he used to share with his mother. Did he do it? Is the girl still alive? What’s Ted’s deal, anyway? And why is half the book narrated by a religious cat?
You do get answers to these questions, mostly, but that’s not really the point. This isn’t a crime novel; nothing in Needless Street is cut and dry. I often wanted clearer answers, longer descriptive passages, of the events that shaped Ted into what he is, but to do so would have undermined the entire point.
Catriona Ward has clear narrative voices for each of her characters, who alternate chapter POVs. There’s first and third person narration, with jumps in time. The “twist” unfolds about 2/3 of the way through. Honestly, I don’t think it was that much of a surprise – I had my suspicions right at the beginning, but allowing the writing to come to it naturally was definitely worth the wait. I tore through the last third, crying most of the way.
The topic is pretty heavy, as is the list of potential trigger warnings, but it didn’t feel that way reading it. It felt like more of a character study. Overall, I was pulled in by the characters and the (background?) mystery.
I finished it thinking it was one of the best novels I’d read in a while. I wish there were people in my life who would read and enjoy this book, because I would love to discuss it. I’m not sure if I’d reread it, but I would definitely recommend it. But please, check out the trigger warnings because I could see this being a really awful read for some people.
Potential triggers: animal death; child abuse; child death; mental illness; self-harm; violence. Also a lot of talk about snakes.