Released May 4th, with Quercus Books.
The Night Visitor is one of this month’s hottest new releases, and with good reason. Lucy Atkins is already a pretty well known author thanks to her previous novels The Missing One and The Other Child but it looks like The Night Visitor is the one that’s really going to add her name to the ranks of today’s must-read thriller writers. I’ve been seeing buzz about it on Twitter for months – I think I remember seeing Clare Mackintosh mentioning how good it was ages ago – and I’ve been super excited to read it ever since then. And hooray – thanks to Hannah at Quercus I’ve got my grubby little paws on a copy.
First and foremost: this is a Good Book. It is a very high quality piece of writing and I think that the incredible characterisation of the two central characters is what makes it stand out from other similarly themed titles. I suppose this is part of the ‘grip lit’ genre but im-not-so-ho this book stands head and shoulders above a lot of the others. It’s firmly literary as well as thrilling – very solidly written. I felt thoroughly as though the action was driven by the realistic wants of the characters instead of the needs of a thriller plot – which is, of course, the best sort of thriller.
Vivian in particular was a triumph of a character. She was creepy and insidious and alarmingly believable. I understood that she could exist in the world at her current level of Odd. Sometimes in books like this, the villain (is Vivian a villain or just extremely damaged?) is a bit of a cardboard cut out and it’s hard to see why they are the way they are, but Vivian made a lot of sense and seemed as though she could be a person who manages to function in the world while seeming a bit off. In some other books it can be hard to understand why no one’s pointed out that the villain is a psychopathic monster before. I also thought that Olivia was a great character – again, she felt extremely real, as did all of her friends and family members. This may sound ridiculous but all the characters were well-drawn in just a few words – it was easy to tell them all apart (this sounds like damning praise but it’s not! Sometimes background characters are hard to distinguish but it felt as though all these characters were distinct people with their own lives).
The settings were great and extremely evocative. I enjoyed the way the book moved between them – Vivian’s inability to deal with the heat in the south of France, the tower that the children slept in, the woods in the countryside in Sussex, the old house – I felt very much as though I was there. I liked how green and leafy and wet-smelling the woods were – does that make sense? They were described really excellently and were incredibly familiar and atmospheric. I also thought that the pacing of the novel was fantastic – the action unfolded perfectly in a way that meant I didn’t particularly notice the plotting – which is a compliment. I didn’t notice any dragging, I wasn’t bored for a single paragraph, I wasn’t confused and I didn’t feel that any of it was rushed. I was carried along on the story very comfortably – it felt effortless to read and to get lost in.
My one criticism of this novel was that I didn’t love the ending. It was a little too open-ended for me – although I’m completely aware that’s a totally subjective feeling and a lot of people will probably respond very well to it. To me there were two open-ended bits at the end (let’s describe them as Olivia’s personal life and Olivia’s Vivian life…) and although they were both resolved to some extent, I think my slightly anally retentive brain would have enjoyed a little more certainty at the end. Having said that, it probably isn’t really a criticism because I don’t think it lessened the quality of the book at all – and it has certainly made me think about future possibilities for the characters more than the ending of most thrillers.
In conclusion, this is a clever, clever book. It kept me hooked, it was deliciously creepy, and it’s absolutely worth reading. Thank you again to Hannah at Quercus for sending me a copy.