The House of Ashes – Stuart Neville

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance. A new country. A new house. A new beginning with her husband Damien.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home. She remembers the fire, and the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her, whom she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. Sara soon becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago – the tragic, bloody night her husband never intended for her to discover. And Mary – silent for six decades – is finally ready to tell her story . . .

Print length: 305 pages. Publisher: Zaffre. Publication Date: 3 Feb 2022

An image posted by the author.

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (published in the UK as THE TWELVE), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the MWA Edgar, CWA Dagger, Theakstons Old Peculier Novel of the Year, Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year.

He has since published nine more critically acclaimed books, two of which were under the pen name Haylen Beck. In 2020, Soho Press will publish his first short story collection, THE TRAVELLER AND OTHER STORIES.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

My Review

If you are looking for a feelgood, light hearted read then I would strongly suggest giving The House of Ashes a very wide berth, but if you are looking for a brutally raw, emotionally charged, heavy, dark and atmospheric novel along the lines as Room by Emma Donoghue and The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean, then grab yourself a copy, get comfy and prepare to be deeply affected and left emotionally drained.

The House of Ashes is Stuart Neville’s latest standalone thriller, set in Northern Ireland the story centres around “The Ashes”, a large farm house now owned by married couple Sara and Damien Keane and previously owned by Mary Jackson who now resides in a care home.

Shortly after moving into their new home Sara finds Mary, now in her 70’s, on her doorstep bare foot and bloody, confused and convinced she still lives at The Ashes. The story has a dual timeline and the two wonderful female narrators (Mary in the past and Sara in the present) who take the reader on this emotionally and truly disturbing journey.

Through Mary’s voice we slowly learn about her past sixty years ago when she lived with her “family” in The Ashes and these chapters are so hard to read especially when viewed through Mary’s innocent eyes. It’s heartbreaking and difficult to read in places and many readers will find it distressing due to the abuse she witnessed and was exposed to.

In the present day, Sara has been moved away from her friends and family from the UK for a fresh start. It’s obvious from the start that she is living with a bully and is being controlled by her husband Damien. Early on there are hints that Sara has mental health issues and the house seems to elevate these feelings especially when she decides to research the history of The Ashes discovering a truly horrific past.

Not an easy read at all, but I found it both compelling and creepy. This is a book to read with the lights left on!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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