Inured to the writerly tricks of most horror novels, it’s rare the Dragon finds a tale so creepy that she jumps at noises in the night. With The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters delivers just such a story.
Dr. Faraday’s mother was once a maid to the Ayres family, and even as a child, Dr. Faraday had loved the Ayres’ family home, Hundreds Hall. In its day, it was a grand manse, but the Ayres family and Hundreds Hall have fallen onto hard times.
Post World War II society is changing, and the old families no longer command the respect or money they once did. Hundreds Hall reflects the decline of the Ayres family with its weed choked yard and crumbling plaster. Mrs. Ayres, her son Roderick, and her daughter Caroline, try to keep the deteriorating estate from falling into collapse, but money and circumstances are against them. Dr. Faraday is called to assist them one day and finds his life slowly intertwined with the fate of Hundreds Hall and its haunted residents.
Waters moves through her story with a languid pace that is deceiving. While the reader may think nothing of import has transpired, Waters brings every event into sequence, laying the path for an ending that is as surprising as it is haunting.
Waters uses the power of language to evoke one creepy moment after another, building the tension toward a climax that is both astounding and perfectly fulfilling. If you enjoy your novels layered with complexity without cheap tricks, you’ll love The Little Stranger.
Just leave the lights on when you put it down for the night . . .
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