“You know, you ought to keep an eye on a little girl like that in this town.”
Kill Creek was one of my favourite reads of 2017 and I have been eagerly anticipating another Scott Thomas book ever since. When I saw the listing for Violet on NetGalley I jabbed that ‘Request’ button so hard it wouldn’t have surprised me to find an index finger shaped crack in my iPad screen. I was so excited about this book but I didn’t fall in love with it like I was supposed to and as a result I’ve spent the past fortnight dreading writing this review.
I still really want you to read Kill Creek and I hope that you love this book too. I want to be wrong about Violet. I want the problem to be me, not the book. However, I have some problems with this book that would have prevented me from reading beyond the first 10% if I hadn’t committed to reviewing it.
“There is something wrong with this place.”
While Scott’s debut was deliciously creepy and plot driven, with a group of horror writers attempting to survive Finch House (this house was my favourite character!), Violet is more atmospheric, an exploration of grief across time and its impacts upon multiple characters. I don’t usually mind novels where a slow burn gradually builds into a cataclysm of sorts but I found the set up too drawn out here. There were some nibbles along the ways but most of the payoff came after my interest had faded.
Her abuse of prescription medication chased down with a lot of alcohol, combined with the grief of her recent loss and snatches of memories of a more distant one, made Kris an unreliable narrator. This, along with her additional voices, those of Shadow Kris and Timid Kris, made me question whether anything I was reading was actually happening or not. Which parts of the story were real and which were distortions brewed up by a cocktail of trauma, chemicals and the possibility of an undiagnosed mental illness?!
Now, I’m rarely a fan of unreliable narrators in my life, either inside or outside of books, and as a result I never warmed to Kris. I was wary of trusting anything she relayed to me and so I kept her at an emotional distance. I probably would have connected with her daughter, Sadie, but because I saw her mostly through Kris’ eyes I didn’t know what to believe where she was concerned either.
“It is all connected, don’t you see that?”
Some words were used so frequently that I found myself being taken out of the story each time I came across them. By the time I reached 10% I’d considered counting how many times I encountered “like”, “as if” or “as though”. This trio weaved their way throughout the book, sometimes appearing two or three times on a (Kindle) page.
Then there were the descriptions of the house overlooking Lost Lake in general and of the cleaning process. Kris and Sadie need to make the neglected house habitable and the cleaning process was described in such detail that I was tempted to go clean my own home just so I could stop reading about it.
The lake house had helped Kris get through one of the most awful summers of her life. It could do the same for Sadie.
I hate that I felt like I was slogging my way through this book. The tidbits that teased of what was to come would usually have me hooked, poring over every word to make sure I didn’t miss any clues, but it didn’t work that way for me here. I didn’t feel like the story truly started until almost 70% and by then I was drained.
There were some glimpses of the magic that I enjoyed in Kill Creek and I could see myself enjoying a movie adaptation of this story, where the details that felt drawn out in the book could be captured quickly by the camera panning over each room, but overall it didn’t live up to its potential for me.
“Don’t be afraid to remember, Mrs Barlow.”
Despite all of this, I am still looking forward to the next book by this author. Their first book made such an impression on me that I am keen to see what other horrors they’re going to unleash upon my imagination. Maybe if I reread this book when I’m in a different head space I’ll find a new appreciation for it. If that’s the case I’ll definitely be letting you know. Until then I think I’m going to go with the hope that it’s not you, highly anticipated book; it’s me.
Content warnings include painful death of a horse at 57-58%, death of parents from accident and illness, death of children, and abuse of alcohol and prescription medication.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Inkshares for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
For many children, the summer of 1988 was filled with sunshine and laughter. But for ten-year-old Kris Barlow, it was her chance to say goodbye to her dying mother.
Three decades later, loss returns – her husband killed in a car accident. And so, Kris goes home to the place where she first knew pain – to that summer house overlooking the crystal waters of Lost Lake. It’s there that Kris and her eight-year-old daughter will make a stand against grief.
But a shadow has fallen over the quiet lake town of Pacington, Kansas. Beneath its surface, an evil has grown – and inside that home where Kris Barlow last saw her mother, an old friend awaits her return.