It's a fairly well used trope - innocent stranger inherits spooky old house, arrives to make it her own and faces horror as a dark history begins to repeat itself. And at times I thought that Alison Littlewood had fallen into a trap by trying to breathe new death into such a thing. But I changed my mind about this evil, tricky little book and ended up being thoroughly... not scared, but chilled to the bone.
I do feel though that it will divide readers. To begin with, the narrative dots a round a bit. First it's 2013, with Emma Dean arriving at neglected, decaying Mire House. She projects on it her dreams of a grander life (as it becomes clear other women have before. The House seems to have a special affinity with women, who see it, fatally, as a key to their futures). Then we go back to 1973. Then to 1939. That first 40 year jump is quite a jolt, coming as it does just when things really seem to be moving, and to begin with I didn't find the 1973 narrative - of schoolboys daring each other to go into the Old Scary House - too engaging. But read on. Littlewood lifts the story from the merely scary by the effortless way she threads in and out of the mind of Frank, the young boy chiefly involved, and by the way she twists things, invoking fear, shame and guilt.
It's then less of step to the 1930s, where Littlewood inhabits the mind of another and different character, before returning to the present day to wrap things up. We assume, by then, that we've worked out what is going on but there are still surprises in store, and I had to go back and reread the first part again to understand what had really been happening.
All in all, it is a very clever story. Watch the scraps of family history and conversation to try and grasp what's happening, and wonder at what may be next...