Friday, March 18, 2016
The Unforgotten by Laura Powell and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.
Betty Broadbent is fifteen years old, living in a little village, helping her mother run a boarding house. Her life feels small and all too frequently frightening, due to her mother's "black monster" mood swings, and the sudden rash of murders of young women.
As the murder count rises, reporters crowd their boarding house, and Betty finds herself drawn to one in particular, the quiet, frequently taciturn, Mr. Gallagher.
Interspersed among this past timeline, readers are introduced in the present to Mary, a woman with secrets and struggles who seems to have some tie to the events of the past.
This is a murder mystery that is strongly character driven. The mystery frequently takes a backseat to what is happening between Betty and her mother, Betty and her friend, Betty and Mr. Gallagher, and the mysterious Mary. But the book does not suffer from this. The detailed development of the time, place, and people add an urgency and an emotional connection to the book readers cannot help but feel.
I did end up predicting a lot of what was revealed about the mystery, including some of the bigger twists. But the end reveal completely shocked me, and had me thinking back over the whole book to see what I had missed.
The minute I saw the description of this book, I knew I had to read it. It combines so many tropes and genres I love-reality shows (and a paranormal one to boot), urban legends, a past that may not be what everyone believes it to be, secrets, unreliable narrators, horror, mystery, and even some creative use of outside media brought into the text (in this case, a blog). In short, this was a book I was desperate to read, and this was a book that was a really good read.
We are introduced to Merry, eight years old when the events filmed on The Possession took place, now grown up and telling her story to a writer. As Merry tells about her sister and the terrifying changes that took place around her, about her father's dependence on religion and his desperate turn to an exorcism (and the promised money from the reality show) to fix everything, about her mother's descent into drinking and depression, we are taken back into the past, shown the beginning, middle, and end of this terrifying tale. This is interspersed with a horror blogger who describes in detail the various episodes of The Possession, and analyzes them at length.
But is what we are being told the truth? Merry is an unreliable narrator, not only because of her young age when the events she describes took place, but because she readily admits that watching The Possession and reading articles on it may have caused her memories to warp and blur. What she thinks she remembers may not have actually happened that way.
And that is what is most amazing about this book, in the end. The terror builds until it is almost unbearable, the shocking revelation comes, and as readers are left in shock, they are also left wondering if Merry has just fed them over a hundred pages of lies, and, if so, if she did this on purpose.