Observing all relevant social distancing, Steve Taylor-Bryant visits a House With No Doors by Jeff Noon...
At first glance, Leonard Graves’ death was unremarkable. Sleeping pills, a bottle of vodka, a note saying goodbye. But when Detective Henry Hobbes discovers a grave in the basement, he realizes there is something far more sinister at work.
Further investigation unearths more disturbing evidence. Scattered around the old house are women’s dresses. All made of the same material. All made in the same colours. And all featuring a rip across the stomach, smeared in blood.
As the investigation continues and the body count rises, Hobbes must also deal with the disappearance of his son, the break-up of his family and a growing sense that something horrific happened in the Graves’ household. And he is running out of time to find out what.
I have always enjoyed Jeff Noon books, ever since I read Vurt many years ago, but I did not get the chance to read the first Detective Henry Hobbes book Slow Motion Ghosts before picking up this novel. However, as with many books that are part of a series, that did not matter as House With No Doors is most definitely a standalone novel and any history of Hobbes that you may want is included within the conversations contained within House With No Doors anyway. But this is not a conventional crime novel despite reading like one, nor is it a conventional horror or occult novel despite reading like one. House With No Doors is a novel that refuses a genre pigeonhole and just plays with its audience even after the final page has been turned. I say this because I felt, right throughout my reading, on edge, discombobulated slightly, as the narrative twisted and turned so subtly that I could not work out why I felt like I did, and three days after finishing the book I am still being affected by the characters, by the storyline, by the things that went unsaid but were definitely there. Hobbes is a character you can relate to and, whether he is in the 1960’s flashbacks or the 1980’s setting of the story, there is something timeless about his struggles with both job and life making him a perfect narrator for a story. You see everything through his eyes, you feel his confusion and his stress and you revel in his successes as he starts to unravel a complex and startling storyline.
Jeff Noon has always made me think, he has always challenged me as a reader and, whilst I am more familiar with his science fiction-esque settings, seeing the same sensibilities, the way he toys and teases his readers, in a more conventional story environment is truly a thrill. I felt things whilst reading House With No Doors that I never get from a ‘usual’ crime novel, or a horror book for that matter, and whilst not everyone like to be so tested by an author, I for one am very comfortable with being uncomfortable. I do not mind being confused and frustrated for big periods of reading when the reward for getting through those moments is so stunningly executed by an author who must revel in his ability to take a reader on a journey they do not expect to ever go on. House With No Doors is, so far, early I know, my book of the year and is a must read for anyone who likes to be surprised and tested.
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Image - Amazon