20 April 2013 Leave a comment
Author: Adam Nevill.
Summary: Some doors are better left closed…
In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in and no one comes out, and it’s been that way for fifty years, until the night a watchman hears a disturbance after midnight and is drawn to investigate. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever.
A young American woman, Apryl, arrives at Barrington House. She’s been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumors claim Lillian was mad, but her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago.
Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming, evil force still inhabits the building, and that the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying…
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Review: This book had me hooked from the prologue. The setting of an old and fancy apartment block, at night, creepily empty, but never alone. The ominous apartment 16, in which no one lives and no one is allowed to enter, but from which noises can be heard. The atmosphere, the flashes of movement in mirrors and the oppressive darkness. This book delivered chills down my spine in every chapter… of the first third of the book. Too soon it started to drag a little. At first it was all suggestive and atmospheric, and much more effective before explanations started being revealed.
The narrative alternates between two complimentary stories. One of the night porter of the building, who allows himself to be sucked in and taken over by whatever mysteries are inside apartment 16. From this narrative we see the horrors of apartment 16, the afflictions. The second narrative is about a young woman who has inherited one of the apartments. She gets sucked into the mystery through the journals of her great aunt, and develops an irrational need to find out what exactly is happening in the building. In this narrative we find out what lead to the mystery and horror, the history and explanations. We see more of what is really happening than either of these two main characters.
Really, i found that as more of what was happening was explained, the less interested i became; the less thrilling the suspense became. We are told who, when and why… but the true motives and execution are left so vague it left me so uninterested. The owner of apartment 16 was a painter of graphically macabre art, and undoubtedly an unstable mind. He dabbled with “the occult” and opened up a “vortex” in his apartment, and when his neighbours had finally had enough of him, they threw him into it. And since then he’s been a ~presence~ within the building, making a racket, scaring people and making sure they can’t leave.
I liked the ominous empty flat, with its wind and far away voices; the sleep deprived night porter, with his grotesque visions and smoking habit; the American woman, with her inexplicable fear-tinged excitement; and the cranky old residents, with their attitudes and apparent ignorance. I liked what my imagination could do with that and the atmosphere the book evoked.
I did not like the painter-cum-presence, hell bent on revenge by condemning his adversaries to a long yet limited life. The revelation that that was all there was to the mystery was disappointing to me.
At once stage there was a point where everything the two main characters had experienced could have been rationally explained with each having some degree of a psychological condition, and was in fact heavily suggested throughout the book, by the characters themselves and those around them. I think i would have enjoyed the book more overall if this had been left as a possibility; if the end had been left open enough for the reader to decide if the bizarre things the characters experienced had actually happened, or if it was all in their imagination.
The most disappointing thing for me is the knowledge that i don’t want to reread this book. Knowing how it ends, knowing what everything means, i won’t be able to enjoy the chills the first third of this book gave me when i read it—it just won’t be scary any more.