Rating – 3.5/5
The Easton family moves into an old, giant house they bought at dirt cheap price. Alice, the youngest in the family, is thrilled to move in there and explore it. Her joy soon turns to dread when she discovers a painting of stick figures depicting a family of four on the wall of the hallway ……. just like her family. The rest of the family brushes it off, but Alice is intrigued and scared by this painting.
One by one, the members of her family start disappearing, which is followed by a X marking that member in the crude painting in the hallway. Alice must unearth the macabre mystery behind this old house before she becomes the next victim.
Sounds scary enough? Well, it did to me. The first part of the book, where the family members keep disappearing one by one, is spooky. It kept me on the edge, and I was anxious to find out the mystery behind their disappearance.
Appearance of a never-before-seen diary in Alice’s bedroom, the creepy feeling of someone always watching you, the glimpse of a grotesque face on Alice’s window at the dead of the night, a glimpse of pink; snow, snow everywhere—all these images establish an unearthly atmosphere, ripe for a ghost story.
Apart from the images, Gillespie also plays with Alice’s mind. As the family members keep disappearing, suspicion rears its ugly head among the rest of the inhabitants. One by One is as much a portrait of the sinister as it is of a family itself. What makes a family? What breaks it? What makes family members stick together? What drifts them apart? During adversity, how strong are the bonds in a family which are already under strain?
However, the problem is One by One has been described as a horror book, but it is actually a psychological thriller. So, I was disappointed by the direction that the story took in the second half.
I was waiting for the ghost to appear; what I got instead was its pale imitation. In reality, human beings are far scarier than ghosts, which is the message the author was aiming for. Unfortunately, once the culprit behind the disappearances was revealed, I failed to be scared by that person. The writing in the latter part of the second half wasn’t powerful enough to evoke any fear or disgust towards the antagonist. This resulted in a tepid climax, in my opinion.
While this book did not work for me, that may not be the case for others. Gillespie’s One by One is not a run-of-the-mill horror book. It is grounded in reality, which will appeal to a wide section of audience, apart from horror and mystery fans.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a free eARC of this book. I opted to provide an honest review.
What horror books have you read recently that scared the sh*t out of you?