Mystery Thriller

Girl in the Walls A.J. Gnuse

10 May 2021
Girl in the Walls: A thrilling fiction debut, the Gothic novel of 2021 Book Cover Girl in the Walls: A thrilling fiction debut, the Gothic novel of 2021
A.J. Gnuse
HarperCollins UK
18 March 2021

Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home,
stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can.
But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house.
Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.

Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?

And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?


Girl in the Walls is a unique story of survival and how we acknowledge the concept of ‘home’. Is home where we belong and feel safe – what a compelling story if two strangers have the same view over the same house. There is a glaring mystery behind the nature of the ‘Girl in the Walls’ – is she real or a ghost?

Elise is a young girl who survived a car accident that killed her parents, and she cannot accept foster care so runs away to the only place she considers home – the old house her family lived in until recently. The house is now owned by Nick and Laura Mason with their two sons Eddie and Marshall. Elise knows the hidden spaces between floors, walls, the attic, crawlspaces, and she occupies these areas living on the scraps of food and water she can retrieve when the family are asleep or out. Eddie is the younger brother and at odds with his older brother, he is a shy, solitary boy and has a strong sense of the presence of Elise but feels unable to discuss this with his parents or brother.

Brodie is a young boy from the area and unexpectedly discovers Elise in the house and they eventually establish a friendship after Elise struggled between driving him away and needing his companionship. Even as a young child she understands the importance of secrecy and careful choices that could cause suspicion. After getting past the idea that a child could accomplish this feat, the description of Elise’s life following the loss of her parents, finding little items such as her mother’s sock is emotional and cleverly expressed. The anxiousness of her state of mind, her health condition, and her loneliness in dealing with grief is heartfelt and well conveyed. Brodie is not as clever in leaving a negligible footprint in the house and when items belonging to Marshall are taken it brings him into the belief that someone is in their house.

Marshall searches possibilities online about people living in your house and agrees that someone will come out to investigate his house while his parents are away. What transpires is a shocking attack on the house and search for Elise from a deranged force. I could appreciate peril being focused on Elise as she is hunted and an apprehension the closer the discovery became, but this was very dark and sinister and out of character for the story to that point. It didn’t make sense why the hunter was so obsessed with catching Elise and his chilling actions were totally off the charts.

The personalities and backgrounds of Elise, Eddie and Brodie were wonderful, and it is very easy to connect with them as they each grow and cherish the value of family and friendship, and the dangers that exist in an outside world. A.J. Gnuse has written a coming of age story with horrifying dangers but unfortunately with a few plot holes and a threatening twist, it took the atmosphere in a very dark direction. I would rate this book 3.5 stars but rounding down because the unbelievability in aspects of the story was difficult to set aside.

I would like to thank Fourth Estate and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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