In the Shadow of Spindrift House
by Mira Grant
Subterranean Press, June 30th 2019
For Harlowe Upton-Jones, life has never been a straight line.
Shipped off to live with her paternal grandparents after her parents were killed, she has grown up chasing the question behind the curve, becoming part of a tight-knit teen detective agency. But “teen” is a limited time offer, and when her friends start looking for adult professions, it’s up to Harlowe to find them one last case so that they can go out in a blaze of glory.
Welcome to Spindrift House.
Mira Grant’s In the Shadow of Spindrift House is a limited release novella that I listened to through Scribd. While it’s not my favourite of her works, it truly is worth the listen if you can get a hold of it.
Does everyone remember when I read the teen-detective-all-grown-up horror novel, Meddling Kids, a few months ago? This takes a similar concept and is so much better. Mira Grant takes surprisingly similar conversations– loss, found families, unrequited love– and actually makes them seem grounded in a situation that is entirely out of their control. There’s supernatural happenings, sure, but that’s just the backdrop to the exploration of these themes.
With how much I cared for these characters, I’m shocked this was only 200 pages long. Each character is distinguishable from the other and while they do align with the typecasting Scooby Doo once established in detective groups, they become so much more than tropes. The love between them is honest and, while they have their issues, the ending is bittersweet and heartbreaking watching the breakdown of relationships as they grow apart. It’s a coming-of-age narrative where characters sit at the cusp of adulthood, and that’s something I can deeply relate to at my current age.
As always, Mira Grant has a fantastic grasp on fear and brings to life this house as it turns against the people inside. I loved the insight into trauma that lingers throughout generations, although I do feel it could have been addressed in more detail and had more evidence leading up to final revelations rather than letting us feel as if it was a mystery we could never solve. There’s also an examination of agency and the lack of control women had, and continue to have, over their own bodies, something I always enjoy in horror.
In terms of audiobook narration, this one was strong. Jesse Vilinsky has different voices for the characters that makes them distinct and strong in their own rights, especially Kevin. I really related to the descriptions of Kevin’s panic and how overwhelming situations can sometimes force his anxiety into stillness so he can get through and carry others through it, too. I have anxiety, and I thought Jesse Vilinsky really captured his voice when he is anxious.
Off topic briefly: I showed my friend the cover for this and I had to tell her it’s really a professional cover for a book by an author who has been published for over 10 years. I love how terrible it is, and I loved my friend’s absolute disgust seeing it. No shame to the artist, obviously, but… it just doesn’t do her work justice in any way.
One of my larger issues with this novella is that it doesn’t feel long enough for the concept Mira Grant proposes. Endings are abrupt and, while that’s realistic, there’s an element of dishonesty for readers. I feel like we deserve more of a payoff with the quick attachment to characters, even if it is still bittersweet. I actually love this ending, just not how the ending seems to start in the middle of the story. There’s really no middle: just a long beginning and a very long end.
Overall, not the strongest of Mira Grant’s stories, but in terms of her novellas and shorter fiction I’ve read, this is my favourite thus far. I hate making comparisons, but for me, it’s the better take on the detective agency concept that Meddling Kids attempted but ultimately failed at because of other issues I had with the narrative and representation.
If you like this post, you might like:
🍎Book Review: MEDDLING KIDS by Edgar Cantero
🍎Book Review: THREE SOFT SCI-FI REVIEWS
🍎Book Review: NEVERWORLD WAKE by Marisha Pessl
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