Engrossing hardbacks seem to be a running theme for me this year so far, and The House With No Rooms is a prime example of complex storytelling on a grand scale and a great way to kickstart the month.
During a hot seventies summer, a young girl witnesses an awful crime and subsequently suppresses the secrets of her childhood. As an adult, these secrets hide an even darker truth that falls to detective’s daughter Stella Darnell to uncover before a murderer gets away with their terrible acts.
Stella and her train driver friend Jack are drawn into a case that has links with Stella’s past and they strive to unravel a forty year old mystery that has very real dangers for all those involved.
The way the story dips back and forth in time cleverly links the past and present, and also creates extra layers of mystery as snippets of information are revealed bit by bit.
Stella is a sensible, stable lead whose history with other lead characters anchors her role firmly in the story. She wasn’t a character I particularly liked or disliked, but she is realistic and central to the storyline. Where she is rational and practical, Jack is led more by his intuition which makes them work surprisingly well as an investigative partnership.
I was really intrigued by Jack, a night-owl who has an uncanny knack for identifying what he calls a ‘True Host’, which is someone with the capacity to murder. It’s almost like he has radar for secret psychopaths and as he stalks the night harbouring his own secrets and theories, it lends some quite sinister undertones throughout the whole story which made for compelling reading. I’m looking forward to learning more about him and his past in future stories.
Set in London, a lot of the action takes places in and around Kew Gardens which I thought was an imaginative and memorable location for the story. Even though I’ve never visited Kew (although it is on my list of places to go), I had vivid imagery of all the plants and greenery, artful garden sculptures and old fashioned buildings that stand silent and empty at night. It all added to the atmosphere which was tense all the way through.
During the story, when the action has lulled, it is a bit of a slow burner although in this case, that wasn’t a bad thing. Some crime novels are non-stop, fast and furious content. The House With No Rooms is at the other end of the scale with an intricate story that stealthily holds your attention throughout towards a thrilling and gripping finale.