The Witch House by Ann Rawson – REVIEW
Who can you trust, if you can’t trust yourself?
Alice Hunter, grieving and troubled after a breakdown, stumbles on the body of her friend and trustee, Harry Rook. The police determine he has been ritually murdered and suspicion falls on the vulnerable Alice, who inherited the place known locally as The Witch House from her grandmother, late High Priestess of the local coven. When the investigations turn up more evidence, and it all seems to point to Alice, even she begins to doubt herself.
Can she find the courage to confront the secrets and lies at the heart of her family and community to uncover the truth, prove her sanity, and clear herself of murder?
I received a complimentary eARC of this book from Red Dog Press.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“You only have to take the most cursory glance at reality to realise escape is the only rational choice.”
I have to admit I wanted to read this book purely based on the gorgeous cover. I love anything witchy and the herbs and athame seemed to promise this. Witchcraft certainly played a background part of the story but it wasn’t actually important to the plot. Anyway, as long as you realise this before going in, you’ll probably be more receptive to this psychological thriller. The mystery centres around the murder of Harry Rook, a local resident found staked inside a pentagram. The plot itself is slow-moving which just about works as the story chooses to instead focus on the main character, Alice, and her development.
“Another similarity between being a mental health patient and being a murder suspect. Your emotions were someone else’s business, and you knew they were always marking them against some unknowable ideal scale.”
The author uses one of my favourite devices – the unreliable narrator. Twenty-two-year-old Alice has recently been released from a mental health unit after being forcibly sectioned. Her poor memory is an important narrative device as Alice can’t even remember the events that led her to be sectioned in the first place, which causes her to question her possible role in the murder of Harry. Her frequent feelings of being watched and supposed paranoia also contribute towards her unreliability. Who can Alice trust when she can’t even trust herself?
“Sometimes I think the world is held together by a network of lies, and that a single spoken true word could make the whole edifice collapse, like a game of ethical Jenga.”
Mental health is a dominant theme in the book and the author states she used a friend’s experiences as a template. The only issue I had was the extremely negative portrayal of mental health units as places that hinder an individual rather than help them. I would certainly be terrified of being sectioned by an inept psychiatrist after reading this book! Another surprising element running through the story was that of archaeology and the possibility of a Roman hoard having been hidden from the authorities. This subplot was actually my favourite plot and I would have loved the book to have instead focused on that. Overall, there were elements of this book that I really enjoyed and others that fell a bit flat for me but please do give this book a go!