In October one of the fanciest proofs came my way. It was beautiful, intriguing and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel… Then I moved house and lost my copy of The Roanoke Girls.
Flash forward three months to when I final get round to unpacking one of the six boxes of books I refuse to make eye contact with, you know the old saying “Don’t unpack your stuff, just buy new stuff.” and I find my copy of The Roanoke Girls.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Engel’s novel but within a few pages I was completely hooked.
Lane finds herself uprooted when her mother commits suicide. From the busy, loud landscape of New York she’s taken in by her estranged grandparents who live in the dusty, middle-America town of Osage Flats, Kansas. Upon arrive at the Roanoke estate Lane finds the Roanoke’s to be nothing but welcoming, her grandmother, grandfather and her cousin, Allegra. For the first time in her life Lane has a family and begins to find out about the old Roanoke family.
The novel then jumps forward to present day. Lane receives a phone call from her grandfather, Allegra is missing and Lane must return to the Roanoke household.
When I started The Roanoke Girls it was obvious that this is a beautifully written novel yet every sentence hints towards something dark and nasty. As you start to find out about fifteen year old Lane and present day Lane, Engel’s writing makes you feel a little awkward and uncomfortable so when you hit the first real “OH!” moment it makes you shudder. It’s an isolated story and Osage Flats reminded me of something out of a Steinbeck novel, I haven’t read a huge amount set in small-town America so I was completely captivated.
Engel’s writing really does keep you wanting more and the novel doesn’t lose pace at any point. It took me all of a couple of days to finish The Roanoke Girls and as soon as I put this book down I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.
I’m so glad I started 2017 with this dark little gem of a book.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel will be published 7th March 2017 by Hodder &Stoughton.
Last year one of my favourite novels was The Three by Sarah Lotz. So I was ecstatic when at the beginning of the year I found out that she would be following up The Three with an equally eerie novel called Day Four. The Three had me on edge for months and it’s the sort of book that sicks in the back of your mind.
Day Four doesn’t play as a straight sequel to The Three so don’t worry too much if you haven’t read The Three first, but there are a fair few references to events in the previous novel. (By the time you get to the end of Day Four you’ll be battering down the door of your local bookstore grab a copy of The Three)
Day Four opens on a sub-standard cruise liner called ‘The Beautiful Dreamer’, the first three days of this fairly tacky cruise are completely uneventful but as the title suggests; things begin to change around Day Four. On day four the ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ grinds to a halt in the middle of the ocean. With the ship at a standstill, a Norovirus-like outbreak and the dead body of a young woman found in a cabin, it looks like things can only get worse for the passengers and the crew of this doomed vessle.
Much like The Three, Day Four is from the point of view of a select few passengers and crew. Lotz lets her character’s scenarios entwine among each other which makes for some real heart-thumping chapters. The thing that got me straight away with Day Four was the same thing that had me hooked to The Three. The characters were so easy to read, not all were likeable and the story-telling dynamic shifted a fair bit depending on whether Lotz was writing for passenger or crew. Each character was from a different walk of life, some superstitious, some not so much. Pretty much everything I’ve read in the past few months has been set solely in America so it’s was a breath of fresh air to have a book set in… well, the middle of nowhere.
Around 150 pages in to Day Four I was on the Jubilee line, on route to Canary Wharf when the tube I was on had a power cut. For 6 minutes I sat in the near dark thinking ‘Sarah Lotz has made this happen’. Day Four had tapped into the irrational part of me and I was utterly freaked out. As a word of warning to readers; do not read this book in a confined space such as the London Underground or a plane or a cruise ship. Also don’t make the mistake I made of reading this book in a doctors surgery because you will sit there internally freaking out thinking nothing but “THESE PEOPLE ARE SICK AND THEY ARE GOING TO KILL ME”. So yeah, great job shattering what few nerves I had left, Lotz.
Toward the final quarter of Day Four I found myself unable to put this book down. I thought I had the plot sussed but within the space of a couple of pages everything I thought was completely wrong and this book had an ending that left me giddy with surprise.
Sarah Lotz is doing something magnificent to the horror genre. Day four is an utter thrill ride and it doesn’t let readers have it easy. It’s a thinkers supernatural thriller that’ll have you too anxious to turn the next page. Chaos, mob-mentality, panic and fear are writhe within the pages of Day Four. Lotz has crafted a novel that creeps into the readers conscious in the same weird way that The Three left us too nervous to fly.
I loved this book, Day Four made reading fun again and I can’t wait to see what Sarah Lotz dishes out next.