There Goes Pretty by C.C. Adams
Dark Minds Press, ebook, £2.99
Reviewed by Heidi Ranger
Denny and Olivia have the perfect relationship. Their wedding was a lavish, romantic affair with all their friends and family, and they are looking forward to a luxurious honeymoon to mark the start of their idyllic life. But not everything is as perfect as it seems. Olivia starts hearing things when she is home alone. She’s convinced their house is haunted. Cracks begin appearing in their relationship as Denny cannot reconcile his understanding of the world with his wife’s fantastical claims. At a time when they should be coming together, Denny and Olivia are moving further apart, and soon, there may be nothing left of their marriage to save.
There Goes Pretty is an urban ghost story neatly told in 175 pages in my copy. It centres on a couple living in London in the month between their marriage in her dream location and their exotic honeymoon. The suspense begins almost straight away with Olivia seeing a woman she doesn’t recognise at their reception. However, Denny didn’t see anyone. When the haunting starts in earnest, it is all on Olivia’s side, with Denny questioning his wife’s mental health, not an unreasonable route for the story to follow. I won’t spoil anything by giving away the ending, but I will say that the threat builds steadily throughout and reaches a dramatic conclusion with a surprise twist on the idea of a haunting that will satisfy most horror readers.
I had two issues with the story, but these are both personal in nature and may not bother you. The first is all the references to current TV shows. If you a fan of Love Island and TOWIE, then you won’t find them an issue. Ignore everything I’m going to say next. But if you’re not (confession time: I haven’t watched an episode of either show), then at best, they’re meaningless, and at worst, they’re a bit annoying. The references ground the couple in a time and place that works now and tells you lots about their characters without taking up a lot of space because space is limited in a novella. But that’s a double-edged sword, as shows go out of fashion and could make the story dated, which is a shame.
My second issue is the speed at which the perfect relationship breaks down. Adams invests a lot of time at the beginning showing us what a great couple they are, how everyone thinks their perfect for each other, how much money Denny will spend to show his love. But when things start to go wrong, they immediately begin snapping at each other, then ignoring one another. While that further builds tension, it gives the impression their relationship had no resilience and doesn’t match Adams’s scene setting. Personally, I feel like this could have been a little longer to give us a deeper understanding of their relationship. Or maybe give us an example of them overcoming an issue together instead of the scene with Denny and his mates at a curry house talking about his amazing marriage. However, this quick fall-apart does come with attempts to repair the damage when Olivia sees beyond her fear to Denny’s efforts to help her. This commitment to their vows and one another went quite a way in bringing me back on Denny and Olivia’s side.
While it wasn’t perfect for me, There Goes Pretty has lots to recommend it to horror fans. The location fits the mood, and the build-up of tension keeps you turning the page, desperate to know what happens next. I also found the inclusion of Denny concern for Olivia’s mental health engages and sympathetic. And I will never forget the ending. Whatever niggles I may have finished the book with, the ending blows them out of the water, and I will definitely read more of Adams’s work.