The Last House on Needless Street is one of those extraordinary books that tell a compelling story in the constant haze of uncertainty, with a gripping dark psychological intensity and fascinating characters that are cleverly blended with beautiful writing.
From the start, there is a dark and menacing atmosphere to the story, but you are not sure if you can automatically jump to the obvious conclusion. As the story continues, you wonder, is this a bluff, a double bluff, a triple bluff, a quadruple bluff? – I’m completely bluffed out – my head hurts. The psychologically damaged characters provide their perspective, including Ted, his visiting daughter Lauren and his religious cat Olivia. The other main character is Dee, the sister of a young girl Lulu, who went missing 11 years previously, and she believes Ted was the abductor and possible murderer. She intends to prove his guilt and moves into Needless Street to follow his every move. Each character is an unreliable narrator, which adds brilliantly to the ambiguous levels of suspicion and deception.
Ted is a loner, living in the last house on Needless Street, beside a forest, with windows boarded up and minimal contact with his neighbours. He is a big guy, not to be messed with, and he is left well alone with an air of danger. Ted was a suspect at the time of Lulu’s disappearance, but having a solid alibi couldn’t be charged; however, Dee is convinced that he was the kidnapper. Olivia is an interesting character with a disassociative personality disorder. When she becomes aggressive or needs to hunt for food, her alternate personality of ‘Night-time’ deals with the more unpleasant aspects of hunting and killing.
The twisted psychological uncertainty of Ted takes us on an uneasy journey from horror to pity and back again. How well reality compares to Ted’s version of reality is the mystery. He affectionately refers to his daughter as ‘Kitten’, yet the forest is full of dead kittens. Never sure what the truth is, and constantly wondering where the guilt lies in this dark, mysterious, and menacing story is what distinguishes it. Much can be said about this book, but giving too much detail risks ruining the twists and surprises that await.
The Last House on Needless Street will be one of the standout books of 2021, and I would highly recommend it. I was provided both the book and audiobook and had the great fortune of enjoying each as I progressed through the story. The narrator, Christopher Ragland, was outstanding, and his range of abilities had me checking several times to see if he was the only narrator, especially with the female characters. The only thing I hated was when he sounded the Eeeeeeeoooooeeeee clawing from Olivia. I want to thank Macmillan Audio, Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.