Written by Cassandra Khaw.
That cover alone is enough to grab anyone’s attention. Reviews call this novel one of the best and scariest of the year. All of that in just over 120 pages and I had to grab a copy.
This is a simple ghost and haunted house story that becomes nothing simple at all. Five friends attend a destination wedding in Japan and tensions abound. Who had feelings for who, who still does, and how that may or may not affect the nuptials. All of this unfolds in a house which was designed to hide a mistress, and where more bodies have been held over the years. The ghost of the mistress reveals herself and demands sacrifices. Who will get out alive, and what must they unburden themselves of to get out?
The writing is amazing. Absolutely beautiful and imaginative metaphors that color each and every scene with the big box of Crayolas. The type of similes that make you want to be a better writer yet fear you’ll never be this good. The locale, the horror, even the tension is described with the most vivid words ever put to paper.
However, the people fall short. I found myself confusing characters as I read and ultimately I didn’t care enough about them to go back and refresh myself. No one felt safe but there also was no reader attachment to them. Any deaths had all of the impact of a random bad guy trooper in an 80s cartoon. Most of the book sets up the ghost and once the action starts it feels rushed. Problems and solutions manifest too quickly then devolve into arguments with the survivors and again I forget who is who and why they are fighting. If the stakes were as high as we’re led to believe the ending comes way too quick. This is followed with an epilogue detailing how the survivors go home, explain what happened, and get on with their lives. Lives I had no attachment to before or during and the after does nothing to change that.
In the end the book is a great director with bad actors. Pretty to look at but the characters don’t carry the story that the setting warrants.