This is how creepy gothic suspense is done! A spooky 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…
Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…
A warning: if you’re of a nervous disposition, I wouldn’t advise reading this alone at night or you’ll be jumping at shadows! I admit I’m a scaredy-cat, but The Silent Companions is just the right amount of creepy/suspenseful without being downright terrifying. A good approximation for anyone who wants to know if they’ll be frightened witless would be to say it’s about as scary as an episode of Dr Who featuring the Weeping Angels. In fact, that’s a pretty good indicator of what you’re in for with this book.
I was most impressed with the house in which the majority of the plot is set which, as anyone who likes their gothic literature will know, is one of the most important elements to get right in this sort of story. The Bridge is a proper crumbling pile with its own personality and has a character as crucial to the development of the drama as any of the humans involved. Every creaking board, dark corner and foggy pathway adds to the pervasive atmosphere of dread creeping throughout the narrative.
The three-part time structure of the story is handled well, with the various time jumps often coming just in time to provide welcome relief from some of the more tense passages in the main, Victorian part of the narrative.
None of the characters are particularly “likeable”, but that really doesn’t matter. As with most gothic tales you have to care just enough to want to know what happens next, but not be too upset if no-one gets a happily ever after.
Overall: a proper gothic chiller. Perfect for anyone looking for (mild) Halloween scares!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul