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Surprisingly good psychological horror,
This review is from: Bedbugs (Paperback)
Well, this book is a bit of a surprise. For one thing, it's way better than I thought it was going to be from a cursory judgement. And for another, it's not really the kind of novel I was expecting at all. This is much more of a psychological horror, than a crazy mutant critters run amok horror, which in truth is what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting Night of the Crabs, what I got was Rosemary's Baby where the baby has been replaced by a lot of evil little mites.
The writing is also a lot better than I was expecting (I know, I know I shouldn't pre-judge...) The slow build up of events is well timed, the relationship between the central characters totally believable - although the husband is very forgiving - there's some good dialogue, and the appropriately used internal monologue of the central character is excellent. Susan, is not the easiest person to like, she's neurotic and selfish at best, and in fact she got on my nerves a great deal of the time, but she's very engaging (which is the only thing that matters in a novel, in my opinion) and her descent into increasing paranoia - if that's what it is - is deftly handled.
Aside from Susan, her husband Alex, and daughter Emma, the other characters in the book are used largely to keep the reader guessing about the true nature of 56 Cranberry, the apartment that becomes the source of the family's nightmare. There is the overly friendly old lady who owns the apartment, the strange elderly caretaker and the feckless nanny. There is also the mystery of what happened to the previous occupants. Finally, of course, there is a rather large amount of little bloodsuckers...
The bugs, whether real or imagined by Susan, are used in a very interesting way in this novel. They are not just an infestation to be dealt with in the ordinary sense, but are suggestive of a deeper psychological and perhaps even spiritual crisis that 56 Cranberry Street provokes in Susan. For the reader, they also work as a metaphor of the erosion of stability in Susan and Alex's relationship. Again, I thought this was really well done.
It's not the deepest book you're ever going to read, but it really isn't just the throwaway literary equivalent of a B-Movie. Somehow it manages to combine a sense of the B-Movie aesthetic with hints of 70's horror classics. On the whole this novel feels both modern and yet surprisingly retro at the same time.
Bedbugs is a very enjoyable helping of old school psychological horror. It's a quick read (250-ish pages) and so much better than you may think from casual appraisal. It's a book that is as much about relationships and trust as it is about bloodsucking bugs. But do beware when reading this, you may find yourself scratching every now and then...