Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Book review: The Shift by Fiona Dodwell
Title: The Shift
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Release Date: 05/10/2013
I've been a fan of Dodwell's for a while now, ever since I was able to read a copy of her first book The Banishing. Which, I might add, is a creepy little read that I wholly recommend. There's this wonderful creepiness about her work that reminds me of some of the better pulp horror novels I'd read as a teen. You know the type, the ones that tried to play more heavily on the most basic fears and leave you feeling fairly uneasy- the ones that aren't always guaranteed to end with the main character standing triumphantly over the bodies of their enemies while puppies, babies, and kittens scamper around happily. The Shift continues in that vein and while a little on the short side, Dodwell makes the most of her novella and gives a fast moving book that's sure to please.
Michael White is a man desperate to escape his past. After tragedy costs him his job and marriage, he finds himself abandoned in a world of depression, loneliness and unemployment – until a new start working at a luxurious care home is offered.
But Hill Wood House isn’t like any other care home. What are the shadowy figures that follow Michael? What do they want? And beyond the paranormal, who is stalking Michael? Who is entering his home at night and leaving disturbing messages across his walls?
Can anyone ever really escape their past? Michael is about to go on a dark journey to uncover the truth behind what is haunting him – a truth that will wreak death and destruction to those Michael cares about.
As you can tell from the opening paragraph, I really enjoyed this novella. A good portion of the book is set within the posh care home and I'll admit that I have a soft spot for any place that involves creepy and remote settings. It has this instant atmosphere and helps enhance any spook activity- and there is spook activity in this book. I'll warn readers that there might not be as much description of the care home as a whole. It's a place where people with various disabilities are dumped by their wealthy families, but we're not entirely given a huge amount of detail except for what's immediately needed for the plot. This doesn't handicap the book (no pun intended), but I'll admit that occasionally I wanted a bit more detail here and there. More information on the type of residents allowed there, as well as some back story on some of their families, would have made them seem a little more fleshed out and fully realized.
What also intrigued me is that so far I've noticed that there's this theme in Dodwell's books that surrounds an unhealthy/obsessive love of some sort. That is present in this book, although I can't entirely elaborate on it because it's ultimately the whole gist of the book. I was actually a little hesitant to reveal even that much, as it gives away quite a bit, but then again if you've read any of her other works then you'll probably have expected this from Shift like I did. This is ultimately what made the ending that much cooler, as love is a theme that almost all of us can identify with in some form or fashion. We might not all be the type that creates hair dolls or carves someone's name into our chest (neither of which happens in this book, just listing those as examples), but the concept of someone doing something out of a twisted sense of affection is one that can unsettle just about any reader.
I didn't really have that many quibbles about this as a whole, other than wishing that occasionally there was a little more fleshing out. This works well with its page length and to be honest, this is better served as a novella than a 300+ page tome. It won't take the place of The Banishing as her most uncomfortable/interesting work to date, though. That's a pretty hard story to top, but The Shift will definitely please Dodwell's fanbase.
4 out of 5 stars
(Reader copy provided by author)