It’s important to approach a problem from the right perspective. But it can be difficult to know just which angle to take. Should you tackle the issue logically or empathetically? Impulsively or methodically? Things get even tricker when you ask others for advice. No matter the situation, different people will come to different solutions.
Every character in The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (out September 28; Tor Nightfire) has a problem. Dee Dee is struggling to find clues to the mysterious disappearance of her little sister, Lulu. Ted—a recluse living at the end of Needless Street—wants to help make a better world for his daughter, Lauren. Even Ted’s cat, Olivia, has a series of troubles to contend with, ranging from the beautiful tabby cat to the irritating buzzing sound she can’t quite track down. But while it may seem only natural for characters in fiction to have problems, it’s the way these troubles intertwine that makes Ward’s book sing. The result is a mesmerizing tale of horrifying mystery.
To discuss the plot of The Last House on Needless Street in much detail would be a disservice to both the author and the reader. Every chapter of this expertly crafted novel reveals new shades of meaning that will be best enjoyed by those who go in blind. On its surface the story is about the disappearance of a young girl and those affected in the aftermath. But once you sink a little deeper, Ward reveals an intricate world where cause and effect fold in on each other in a Sisyphean loop that’s not easily untangled.
What can be commented on is Ward’s remarkable prose. In a landscape laced with violence and affliction, every sentence sings with harmonious precision. Readers will no doubt find their heads lifting from the page at the sheer rightness of Ward’s character’s observations. But they won’t stay lost in reverie for long. There is something magnetic about Ward’s work—a certain literary special sauce—that compels the reader forward. Perhaps it’s the mysterious intentions of her characters, but it’s just as likely in the writing itself.
The Last House on Needless Street is a powerful story told by a first-rate craftsperson. If you’re a fan of the dark and mysterious, this book will be for you. Avoid the spoilers, skip the back cover copy, and place yourself directly into Catriona Ward’s chilling hands.
The Last House on Needless Street publishes September 28, 2021 from Tor Nightfire.
Looking for more chilling modern horror? Check out Josh Malerman’s Goblin.