***** - The Short Straw
THE SHORT STRAW
HOLLY SEDDON *****
Leaving isn't safe... But staying would be deadly.
Three sisters find themselves lost in a storm at night, and seek safety at Moirthwaite Manor, where their mother once worked. They are shocked to find the isolated mansion that loomed so large through their troubled childhoods has long been abandoned. Drawing straws to decide who should get help, one sister heads back into the darkness. With the siblings separated, the deadly secrets hidden in the house finally make themselves known and we learn the unspeakable secret that binds the family together.
MY REVIEW *****
I have a bit of a soft spot for old fashioned horror thrillers. It’s therefore no surprise that I was excited to read The Short Straw, which tells the story of three sisters whose car breaks down in front of an old, abandoned and crumbling mansion that they used to visit when they were children in the middle of a dark and stormy night.
The setting for the story is certainly atmospheric and Holly Seddon does a great job of helping the reader picture this creepy house and its many empty rooms. Although there’s no ‘jump scares’, the book is certainly unsettling, and I could easily imagine the scenes throughout.
The story alternates between the perspective of the three sisters; Nina, the eldest who feels a lot of pressure to be the responsible one, Lizzie the flighty middle child and Aisa, the youngest who has the most to prove. There are also flashback chapters from the perspective of their mother Rosemary, which gives some of her backstory as well as providing crucial information about the childhood of the sisters. These chapters tell of their time in the mansion when it was back to its full glory, as their mother worked as a cleaner and they played with the slightly creepy daughter Jane under the watch of her fearsome father. Each of the sisters felt like well-rounded and distinct characters with their own personalities, secrets and developmental progression as the book went on. The book is nicely paced, and the change of perspectives are frequent, which meant you weren’t racing through one chapter to find out what happened in a different storyline or getting bored of one thread of the plot.
There is a certain amount of convenient plot points which hurt the realism of the story at times. You have to suspend your disbelief to believe that the Nina’s car would break down right in front of the mansion gates during a storm, or that none of them can really remember what happened to them at the house during their childhood. The end conclusion also has a rather big coincidence – it all makes for a good story, but it takes away from the realism somewhat. My only other comment would be that particularly towards the end there are a lot of points where the reader alone is kept in the dark with a some of the big reveals which made me try and jump to conclusions or feel like I had missed something. The reveal then happens later, when it makes for a bigger impact, but it left this reader with some confusion in the latter half of the book.
Overall, The Short Straw is a pacy, atmospheric horror/thriller – one not to read on a dark, stormy night! Thank you to Netgalley & Orion Publishing Group for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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