25 February 2014

Monday's Review: The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Page Count: 352 Pages
List Price:  $14.99 Print          
                $10.99 Digital
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher:  Bourbon Street Books

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Some of the best mystery/thrillers that I have read have belonged to the genre of "psychological thriller", so when I read the synopsis for Charlotte Williams' debut novel, The House on the Cliff,  I was immediately intrigued.  Therapist Jessica Mayhew has just met her new client, the brooding Gwydion Morgan.  As an aspiring actor, Gwydion has just been offered the role of a lifetime, but he suffers from an unlikely phobia that could end his ability to handle the part.  As Jessica tries to help him overcome the phobia, she becomes aware of another problem that threatens not only Gwydion, but her life as well.

If I had to categorize The House on the Cliff, I would have a hard time choosing the type of thriller it is. There were definitely elements of the psychological thriller in the book, but at times it almost had a "Gothic" feel to it.  You have a young women hired to help a brooding, dark man under whose spell she increasingly falls, a domineering mother, a forbidding house on windswept cliff above the sea, and a decades old unsolved death.  At times it reminded me of the books of either Victoria Holt or Georgette Heyer, only this one was set in the current time period.  In fact, I thought the book worked much more as a Gothic than as a psychological thriller.  I loved that the author included the uniquely Welsh spelling of the names, also.  It gave the book a more real feel to me.  And although I was able to figure out the ultimate resolution to the murder early on, in a Gothic story that is not necessarily a drawback.

There were a few things, though, that kept the book from being a 4 or 5 star read for me.  For one thing, the original phobia that Gwydion is trying to overcome has really nothing to do with the rest of the book.  After using it to introduce the main two characters, the author lets it fall in the cracks.   Unfortunately for me, I found myself wondering why the phobia developed and whether it could have played a more integral part of the story.  There were a couple of other plot disconnects similar to that that I found myself wondering about and wishing were either left out of the story altogether, or were integrated in the story more successfully.

All in all, I enjoyed this debut novel.  I believe Charlotte Williams definitely has a future as an author of thrillers, and look forward to reading more from her in the future.