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Horror begins at home: the haunting new chapter in domestic noir

A new wave of gothic and haunted house novels explores the fears that lurk behind closed doors When Dee walks through the front door in Catriona Ward’s recent thriller The Last House on Needless Street, readers of gothic fiction find themselves in a familiar place. The house is “an underworld; a deep cave where lonely shafts of light fall on strange mounds, jagged broken things. Plywood is nailed over all the windows,” and the “whole place smells of death; not of rot or blood but dry bone and dust; like an old grave, long forgotten”. Dee is investigating the disappearance of her younger sister Lulu, 11 years earlier, and the trail has led her to Ted Bannerman, a strange loner who lives at the edge of the woods with his cat Olivia, and occasionally his daughter, Lauren. Lurking next door, Dee hears scratching and scrabbling through the walls; late at night she sees a face at her window, “eyes gleaming like lamps, filled with the light of death”; her creepy neighbour’s undergrowth seems to writhe with snakes: “she sees them everywhere, their shadowed coils”. But are these visions real, or products of Dee’s troubled mind – and exactly what are the horrors that haunt Ted’s house? Continue reading...

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