The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Viper, hb, £10.57
Reviewed by Matt ‘Spike’ Adcock
The Last House On Needless Street might just be the most creative dark Gothic chiller to hit this year. In honour of its multiple points of view narration – which include sections written by a cat, I asked my cat Spike to write up this review for me…
I’m cleaning myself when my ted calls me. His name isn’t really ‘ted’; it’s ‘Matt’, but I heard on good authority from the amazing Olivia in The Last House On Needless Street that ted is a suitable descriptor for humans. I’m not a ted, I’m a feline, my ted calls me ‘Spike’.
My ted has been reading The Last House On Needless Street – gosh, it’s a mouthful to keep repeating – and so he hasn’t been very attentive to me. He keeps saying things like ‘oh my god, this is incredible’ and ‘NO WAY!’ at those points, his face screws up in shock, or his jaw falls open. That book must be quite something to provoke those reactions.
I spend a lot of my time napping; it’s what I do to pass the time when things aren’t going well. I haven’t seen my ted nap at all since he picked up the book. In fact, he keeps tapping on his little shiny lightbox, apparently ‘tweeting’ about how Catriona Ward has written something awesome. I steal glances at his lightbox and see words like ‘chillingly clever’ and ‘creatively brilliant’ – he must like this book a lot, not like some of the ones I see him pick up but put down again after only a few pages.
The cover of the Needless Street book has shiny white trees snaking up it. I do not like snakes at all. My ted said that Catriona has carried on her use of snakes as an unsettling plot device from her last book, Little Eve, so she must think snakes are useful at least. I don’t like snakes at all. There is a scene where they wrap around a swimmer in the lake, which is the stuff of pure nightmares – not just for kittens but for anything! What I do like, though, is other cats; in fact, I think I might be a little bit in love with Olivia from the book. In rare moments when my ted does put down the book, to eat or whatnot, I like to find her passages where the prose is presented from her point of view. These are by far my favourite parts. More books should have sections written by cats!
Needless Street is such a dark mystery, a little ted goes missing by a lake, and her older sister becomes obsessed with trying to find out who took her. The main ted in the book is actually called Ted Bannerman – I think that is where Olivia got her term for humans from. He is a lonely fella, living alone apart from his cat and occasional visits from his daughter Lauren. She sounds like a handful for any single parent. She bites, scratches and pulls ted’s hair out – preteen tantrums, I suppose. Olivia has to hide when she visits as I don’t think they get on.
Some of the adult teds think the main character might be the one to have taken the little girl as Needless Street, where he lives, isn’t far from the lake where not only the girl but other little teds have gone missing over the years. But you can’t jump to conclusions. Ted is trying his best to, and it isn’t easy.
There are lots of clues and several twists and turns in the plot. This is both a fantasy and a detective tale mixed into one horrifically unnerving thriller. I agree with the ted whose quote is on the back cover, his name is Stephen King, and he said: ‘A true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets until the very end’. It’s true, and that is why I can’t tell you too much of the plot – trust me, it is better to be surprised, cats know these things.
In my opinion, Catriona Ward has delivered potentially the book of the year. The quality of modern gothic creepiness oozes from every page quite unlike anything else out there. Needless Street is her third novel, and for me, each time, she has gotten better (although my ted Matt really did love her last book, Little Eve).
When he finished Needless Street, my ted looked a bit broken. I went and leant against him with my flank and purred to show that it was going to be OK and that it was just a story, not real. He looked at me and said, ‘that was something special. I have to recommend this book to everyone.’ I saw in the newspaper that the book had launched straight into the top 5 of The Times fiction chart and had been picked as BBC 2 Between the Covers choice (whatever that is), so it must be getting noticed. Also, it has already been optioned for a film version by Andy Serkis’s Imaginarium Studios, so I bet my ted will be excited to see that when it comes out!
Make your ted happy, buy The Last House On Needless Street for them…