"The Window in the Ground" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by The Writing Collective

the window in the ground steve stred poster large

Written by Steve Stred
2020, 106 pages, Fiction
Released on 1st July, 2020


Back in March 2019 I reviewed Steve Stred’s The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, giving it the middling 3/5 stars, and sometime later I read The One That Knows No Fear, which made a stronger impression. I would suggest that Stred’s writing is on a seriously upward trajectory, as The Window in the Ground is significantly stronger and more complete than those earlier works and if not for a telephone interruption, I would have undoubtedly devoured this in a single sitting. It is not a particularly long story, probably about seventy minutes of reading, and if you have never tried Stred before, this is a very classy introduction.

The Window in the Ground opens with a man (probably very old) reflecting back to a time in his life when he was around fifteen and everything gets turned upside down when his grandfather decides to reveal a secret which adults normally keep from their children until they are around eighteen. For an unspecified reason, the grandfather decides to tell the narrator about their small town’s big secret three years early, with the story built around the horrifying fallout of this revelation.

Somewhere in the surrounding forest there is a very large window which is built into the ground, the climb to reach the remote location has echoes of Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, but this great piece of writing is no clone of King. Nobody knows exactly how long this oddity has been there, where it came from or what lurks underneath the glass. Is it a gateway to hell or another world? The town has a council which monitors it, but knows or understands very little. The grandfather warns the teenager that the window can impact individuals in disturbing ways and historically has been connected to several violent deaths. The strange and unexplainable hold it has over people is portrayed like a cross between magnetism or addiction, it is unsettling, but you are unsure why. This strange concept lies at the core of the story and it works incredibly well. Hell, I could feel the window pulling me all the way from south London!

Before viewing the window, newbies who are seeing it for the first time are given a series of rules to follow. Here are a few of them, which have been in place since 1st August 1674; make of these what you will:

  1. You must never be near it by yourself.
  2. Absolutely no meat.
  3. No blood, this includes women during that time.
  4. Never, ever look in.
  5. Never, ever touch it.

The story is skilfully built around this elusive window and the author gives just enough information (but not too much) to keep the reader 100% invested. Along the way a couple of very clever curveballs are thrown, which raise the story to the next level, including a shocking moment involving the fate of the grandfather. I did not see that coming! Even though nobody talks openly about the window, it is the big bad wolf which lurks in the background, and the reader can feel the attraction the boy has to it. Almost like it is calling to him.

We do not initially know how long the period is between the fifteen-year-old in the story and the adult narrator, which is very cleverly integrated into the superb end of the tale. Stred does drop the odd breadcrumb clue along the way, so read it carefully. All too often novellas or short stories which are built around a single concept become unstruck in their ending, with the author struggling to connect a great ending to the big idea. This is not the case with The Window in the Ground, which closes with a killer finish.

Friendship is another key theme effectively explored in the novella. Put yourself in the shoes of the fifteen-year-old narrator, who has just had a huge secret revealed to him; what would you want to do if you were him? That’s right, tell somebody else the secret. Then we meet Fred and the story continues to twist and turn. Amazon lists this as 106 pages and for so few pages there really is a lot crammed into it.

Although first and foremost The Window in the Ground is a horror story, it is written with a certain sense of nostalgia which you might see in more traditional coming-of-age stories. However, take the narrator’s recollections with a pinch of salt, as this story has serious edge and if you ever stumble across a window in the ground make sure you run a mile! Steve Stred is both a prolific writer and book reviewer and this story impressed me so much I am going to take another dip into his recent back catalogue. Excellent stuff.


Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US
Buy from Amazon UK

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
Other articles by this writer


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