I have a love/hate relationship with scary stories. I love the “right ones,” but I’m terribly picky about what fits the bill for me. I prefer a good ghost story with a bit of psychological thrill as opposed to slash and gore. I like the creatures of dark fantasy, but evil faeries or elves alone aren’t enough to chill my bones. When Beverly Lee first revealed the cover for this book last spring, I knew I was going to save it to read during October. I started it a few days into the month, planning to read slowly and savor it until Halloween by sticking to two chapters a day. Right from the start I had trouble limiting myself, and before long two chapters a day became three, and then four, until finally I inhaled the last 100 pages between yesterday and today–and I’m a really slow reader, so anything that has me reading into the double or triple digits in one day has to be an engrossing book.
If I could have custom built my ideal scary story, this would probably be it. I can’t think of anything it’s missing or that I would change to make it more perfect for me. I got my isolated English village hiding dangerous secrets, an ominous forest where there’s always something watching, a haunted house that made The Overlook Hotel look like a charming bed and breakfast, ghosts that genuinely made me skittish in the dark, and an antagonist straight out of dark fantasy yet nightmarishly real. There was imagery in this book that gave me goosebumps while raising the hair on the back of my neck, and that’s not something I experience often in books.
The story centers around a struggling couple, reeling from an unspeakable tragedy. One half of the couple is unknowingly harboring secrets of yet another tragedy–one in which he was to blame–and he unwittingly throws himself and his wife back into the middle of things, opening them up to the pull of a crumbling country house that harbors tragic secrets of its very own, including the tragedy that set these wheels in motion. The house and its inhabitants know Dan’s childhood secrets, and there will be a price to pay.
The Ruin of Delicate things has beautiful, vivid prose and stunning description, enthralling characters that will make your heart ache, and a story that will stay with you even after you finish the book. It’s still twelve days until Halloween. If you like scary stories, do yourself a favor and take your first shaky step into Barrington Hall…