Updated: a day ago
One way or another, Catriona Ward has been present for almost every big thing in my Professional Book Nerd career. The day I quit my job to become a full time editor, I went to an author event where she was speaking. She was the guest author at our first writing retreat, The Writing Haunt. And I plan to research her first book, Rawblood, as part of my PhD. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I love Catriona Ward’s work, and there was a lot of pressure riding on this book to be mind-blowing. I have been dying to get my hands on it for a year. And it’s finally here, absorbed into my brain, warping it in the process.
I first heard about Needless Street at The Writing Haunt, when Catriona told us the book was inspired by serial killer Des Nilsen and his relationship with his dog, Bleep, the only thing he truly loved. She said she wanted to write a story about a cat in a similar situation. Well, I love cats, I love true crime, I love a serial killer book. I was well on board!
The reason I’m relating this story is two-fold. The first reason is because I think this framing is an interesting way to enter the book. It sets you up with certain expectations which are met … and are also not met. The way the book is written, certainly in the first third or so, put me strongly in mind of Thomas Harris on a good day. I felt like I was really getting into the skin of someone dark and twisted in a way that was both satisfying and uncomfortable.
The second reason for this anecdote is that The Last House on Needless Street is an amazing book, really quite astounding in terms of what it achieves … but it’s very difficult to tell you why without giving the game away. Part of the joy of reading it was how much it boggled my mind. My husband has been hugely entertained over the last three days by my increasingly frantic and apparently nonsensical theories about what was happening (including a sudden outburst in bed when I simply exclaimed, “Wait! Am I the cat?”). Those of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware of my love for the video game Outer Wilds, a beautiful, stunning, complex game but one where you can’t really tell anyone what makes it amazing because that would spoil so much of the joy. The Last House on Needless Street suffers from similar problems. You’re just going to have to trust me and read it!
It’s not often I blanket recommend a book to everyone, but I honestly think, if you don’t mind some of the horror elements, there is something in this book for everyone to love. It’s almost a pity to put it into a genre category. There is so much that is heartfelt and so much that is fascinating within this book — all delivered with Catriona’s trademark creeping dread and twisty, dark characters. My strongest recommendation is to book a holiday for release day, clear your calendar, put on your cosiest pyjamas and strap in! The Last House of Needless Street is available to purchase from Bert’s Books here.
Many thanks to Viper Books for providing an advanced review copy.