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The Crooked House By Christobel Kent

The Crooked Hous‘The Crooked House’ is the first book by Christobel Kent. 

Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties and a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote house on a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else’s – or so she thought. Then one night violence was unleashed in the crooked house, in a nightmare that only Alison survived and from which she’s been running ever since. Only when she falls for the charismatic Paul does Alison realise that to have any chance of happiness, she must return to her old life and face a closed community full of dark secrets. As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?

The story starts right at the moment that 14 year old Esme’s life changes dramatically, when her whole family is tragically killed whilst she hides in her bedroom. The only survivors are herself and her father. It is discovered that her father killed the family whilst attempting to kill himself in a jealous rage but left himself in a vegetative state. Years later Esme has now become Alison and tries to lead a normal life, but there is still a gaping hole where her family had been but when she meets Paul and she finds this older and charismatic man interesting. She enjoys their interactions and the connections of a relationship until he asks her to be plus one at a wedding in Saltleigh, the small town she escaped many years ago 

Scared of seeing old ghosts but also wanting to face the past, Alison returns home unprepared for what the short trip has in store. The story flows over the few days that Alison deals with opening old wounds and begins her own investigation as she believes it wasn’t her father who killed her family. 

The story is extremely well written, filled with suspense and suspicious characters, everyone is a suspect and we begin to wonder what everyone’s role is in the story, particularly as people remember Alison and everyone has an opinion on the night, everyone involved and how a series of children’s deaths seem more than circumstantial.

I loved this book, the bleakness, poverty and closeness of the small town, riddled with characters who harbour secrets and ghosts made for thrilling reading, as secrets were uncovered and Alison makes some shocking finds along the way. 

Alison’s a great lead, strong with a deep belief that the wrong person was charged with her family’s murders. She delves into her dark past and reunites with people, she had hoped she had left behind. I couldn’t warm to Paul, I found him creepy and intense and thought that their relationship was a strange sad secretive one. 

Filled with drama and tension from the very beginning, ‘The Crooked House’ is a complex and wonderfully written debut that will have you gripped throughout.  

You can buy The Crooked House from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Crooked House Book Tour

The Crooked HousI am delighted to be part of the book tour for the release of ‘The Crooked House’ by Christobel Kent, I recently read this book and I have to say that it’s quite an impressive debut.

The kind people at The Crime Vault have given me an extract from the book, so sit back, relax and get stuck in. I gurantee after reading the first chapter, you will be gagging for more!

Thirteen Years Ago

When it starts again she is face down on her bed with her hands over her ears and she feels it more than hears it. A vibration through the mattress, through the flowered duvet, through the damp pillow she’s buried her face in. It comes up from below, through the house’s lower three storeys. BOOM. She feels it in her throat.

Wait, listen: one, two, three. BOOM.

Is this how it begins?

Leaning on the shelf over the desk, wooden letters spelling her name jitter against the wall. They were a present on her seventh birthday, jigsawn by Dad, E.S.M.E. The family’d just moved in, unloading their stuff outside this house they called the crooked house, she and Joe, as the sun went down over the dark marsh inland. Creek House to Crooked House, after the tilt to its roofline, its foundations unsteady in the mud, out on its own in the dusk. Mum was gigantic with the twins, a Zeppelin staggering inside with bags in each hand. We need more space now, is how they told her and Joe they were moving. It was seven years ago, seven plus seven. Now she’s fourteen, nearly. Fourteen next week.

Ah, go on, Gina had said. Just down it. Then, changing tack, You can give it me back, then.

Esme’s been back an hour. She isn’t even sure Joe saw her pass the sitting-room door, jammed back on the sofa and frowning under his headphones: since he hit sixteen he’s stopped looking anyone in the eye. The girls, a two-headed caterpillar in an old sleeping bag on the floor, wriggled back from in front of the TV, twisting to see her. Letty’s lolling head, the pirate gap between Mads’s front teeth as she grins up at her, knowing. She mouths something. Boyfriend. Esme turns her face away and stomps past.

Mum opening the kitchen door a crack, leaning back from the counter to see who it is. Frowning like she can’t place her, she gets like that a lot these days. What are you doing back? Esme doesn’t answer: she is taking the stairs three at a time, raging.

Outside the dark presses on the window, the squat power station stands on the horizon, the church out on the spit that looks no bigger than a shed from here, the village lights distant. Make all the noise you like out here, Dad’s always saying, no one can hear.

Hands over your ears and never tell.

On the bed she lies very still, willing it to go, to leave the house. Whatever it is.

Her hands were already over her ears, before it started. Why? The boom expands in her head and she can’t even remember now. All she knows is, she was standing at the window, now she’s on the bed.

She grapples with detail. She heard a car. There were voices below in the yard and, after, noises downstairs. Something scraping across the floor, a low voice muttering and she didn’t want to deal with it, with his questions; she flung herself down on the bed and the tears began to leak into the pillow. She would have put on her music but she didn’t want him to know she was back.

Now. A sound, a human sound, just barely: a wounded shout, a gasp, trying to climb to a scream that just stops, vanishes. And in the silence after it she hears breathing, heavy and ragged; up through three storeys and a closed door, it is as if the house is breathing. And Esme is off the bed, scrabbling for a place to hide.
BOOM.

On the marsh behind the house there are the remains of an old hut with a little rotted jetty. The tide is beginning to come up, gurgling in its channels, trickling across the mud that stretches inland, flooding the clumps of samphire and marsh grass and the buried timbers. Behind her the house stands crooked in the wind freshening off the estuary.

The lights of the police cars come slowly, bumping down the long track, an ambulance, the cab lit. It is three in the morning but the inky dark is already leaching to grey behind the church on the spit. One of the coldest June nights on record, and it takes them a while to find her. She doesn’t make a sound.

You can buy The Crooked House from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Handwritten Girl Takes Part In The Crooked House Book Tour

I am excited to be part of the book tour for the paperback release of Christobel Kent’s new book, ‘The Crooked House’. Check out Handwritten Girl on Wednesday 13th May, to read an extract from the book.

The Crooked House Book Tour