"The Last House on Needless Street" Book Review
Written by Sean M. Sanford
Published by Tor Nightfire
Written by Catriona Ward
2021, 326 pages, Fiction
Released on September 28th, 2021
As someone who has had ample experience with both mind-altering drugs and mind-altering head injuries, I can comfortably attest to the magnitude of the human brain’s aptitude for trippiness. Everyone’s world is theirs alone, as translated by each of our grey matter inhabitants. And the more we limit our own playtime with the world outside, the more elaborate we can tend to paint the leaves of our environment. Much like a Russian doll, rarely does a person’s demeanor and personality express the whole of what’s within.
In The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward introduces us to Ted Bannerman, a gentleman who lives in the novel’s storied namesake. There’s a lake at the end of Needless Street, a place families have enjoyed for generations. A haven full of sunbathers, ice cream stands, sandcastles…and missing children. A grip of vanishings over a relatively short amount of time. Of course, all eyes fall to the nearest suspects, the primary of whom is Ted.
A little bit about Ted…
He lives alone with his cat Olivia and daughter Lauren. He also lives with a belligerent bout of alcoholism. Oh, and some entities who he calls the green boys in the attic. Are they ghosts who live in the wretchedly creepy old house? Are they demons? The house seems to be draped in mystery, particularly for the folks who walk past it with a vocal curiosity as to whether Ted is the one who’s been kidnapping all these kids. They’ve been especially raucous in a rock-to-window vanguard ever since the latest disappearance: a child known to Ted as Little Girl with Popsicle, as per the Missing posters strewn up and down his block.
The girl is known as Lulu to her family, who in the decade since her disappearance have given up hope to ever find her alive. That is, everyone except her sister, Dee. Dee is certain that Lulu is still alive, and the key to finding her lies at the end of Needless Street.
What she uncovers in and around the fabled house is an epic nest of dark and desperate truths who wear masks – and masks who wear truths.
Told in alternating segments of first and third-person, The Last House on Needless Street is a deep and dark collage of the human psyche. Going back and forth between characters, time, and levels of crazy, it reads like a deep and meticulous smorgasbord. Ward is such a careful and detail-driven writer, nothing is to go unnoticed. This is the kind of book that, upon finishing it, knowing all the unpeeled artifacts, one is likely inspired to flip back and re-read the entire thing knowing what they know now. It is ripe with Easter eggs and subtleties in the verbiage, tenses, and the setting itself.
It uses several metaphors, and one of the more distinct is that of cats. Cats were a foundation of Ted’s childhood, and they come to represent a turning point in his relationship to not only his mother, but to reality. Olivia is described with the kind of intricate personality that many cat owners have sensed in their own pets (mine included. Lucy? Are you listening?). I mean, Olivia has a lesbian crush on the neighbor’s cat, and knocks the Bible off the table to read passages for guidance and inspiration. Her humanized voice can teeter on the brink of cute and funny, but this is shadowed by the ways they are presented; which show a complexity of layers that reach an apex by the novel’s end.
With a profundity of character, environment, and concept of reality, The Last House on Needless Street is rich for lovers of mystery, environment, a well-told story, and overall, horror. Rife with its charisma of characters and felines, the book catapults a cataclysmic catacomb of... Sorry, still thinking of Lucy.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.