Welcome back to another blog tour post. Today I’m looking at The Witch House by the talented Ann Rawson, and published by the ever lovely Red Dog Press. With a stunning cover to keep you engaged before you’ve even cracked it open, this book is bound to popular with those who enjoy crime fiction, thrillers, and a touch of magic.
I want to start my review with trigger warnings for:
- Mental illness experience
- Mental health hospital depiction
- Mentions of and depiction of suicide
The blurb starts by asking, “who can you trust, if you can’t trust yourself?“, and what a way to grab attention. Alice Hunter is recovering from a breakdown following the death of her grandmother. So when she finds the body of her friend and supporter Harry Rook, she finds herself in a precarious position of balancing up what is real and what is paranoia. Scared her mother will push to have her sectioned again, Alice can’t let the police know the complete truth, and can’t let herself fall apart. As more evidence starts to come to the surface pinning Alice as guilty, she really is in a difficult position. To find the truth, she’ll have to unwind secrets and lies that go back generations.
This book attempts to take the central issue of mental health as more than a plot device, which is hugely important, and the author does her best to convey both sympathy and empathy of the subject matter, although I did find it questionable some of the things the authors may misunderstand happening behind the doors of psychiatric facilities. There certainly isn’t any confiding in visitors even when pressed, no kitchen areas, mixed wards are now illegal, and wearing more make up suddenly is likely to see you in hospital for more time, not less. The idea that it is so easy to get someone placed under Section by raising concerns is also sadly misplaced; with the ongoing cuts to mental health services within the NHS, even those in desperate need of beds are having to wait weeks for admission. I do feel the need to mention this as reading this misrepresentation of mental health is a massive issue in the media, and as much as I do believe the author has tried to do her best, it’s best to be accurate than sensational.
I guessed the ‘whodunit’ early on, but the extra fibers that twist in to make this story so individual weren’t something I could figure out, so even with my suspicions, I had to keep reading for everything to make sense. Cleverly written to engage a variety of readers, The Witch House allows the occult element to shine in a way that it did not surprise me to find out that the author used to practice paganism, as knowledge has clearly been put to use in that respect.
This domestic thriller works with a big immediate impact, followed by a then constant trickle of input for a slow burn effect. As always, no spoilers from me, but the way the killer manipulates both Alice and the situation, including using her mental health history against her, really draws back to the initial quote I shared; who CAN you trust in this novel?
One of the key things that shone for me is the representation of how a family of friends, and a family you choose, is sometimes the best substitute for unhealthy biological family dynamics. Without her friends, old and new, Alice really would have been stuck. They do their best to support her, and she supports them in turn. Sometimes, friends really are the family we choose.
Thank you to Red Dog Press and to the author for this copy of The Witch House and for involving me in this blog tour.