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July 10, 2014

Fall Preview: In the Spider’s House, by Sarah Diamond

This week is all about our upcoming books. We opened with The Wrong Man, third in Laura Wilson’s terrific “Ted Stratton” series, set during and just after World War II, and inspired by real cases. It’s tough to peg these books: Stratton is a cop, so they’re “police procedurals,” but the cases often involve fairly grisly doings, putting the series into “thriller” territory. The historical detail and the sense of being immersed in wartime (and then Austerity) Britain are spectacular, which makes the books some of the very best “historicals.” And finally, what elevates them well above many other titles with which they might be shelved – whatever shelf that might be – is Wilson’s clear, unflinching eye for characterization: These are real people, struggling with increasing desperation, and that would place the books in the realm of “psychological suspense,” snuggled up next to Ruth Rendell. However you want to categorize them, they are more than worth a read. And although the series does progress from one story to the next, the books also work just fine as stand-alones. With The Wrong Man, we’ll have three “Strattons” available, with another two to come. Dive in.

And when you come up for air, you’ll want to take a look at In the Spider’s House, by Sarah Diamond. This one is firmly in the psycho-suspense camp – not quite as shivery as Sarah Rayne’s chillers, but certainly a little….discomfiting. Like some of our favorite suspense, Spider’s House starts out sunlit and ordinary, and slowly wraps its sticky web of spookitude around the reader. The wrapping is so delicate, the suspense so carefully hiked, that you’re entirely captured, unable to stop reading, before you realize the full magnitude of the tension that Diamond has created.

The tension here concerns a happy little interest in local history. Anna and her husband have moved to a small village in Dorset, and she – without a job, and without an idea for her second novel – starts poking around. It’s always nice to learn about one’s new home.

What she learns, and very quickly, is that her cozy new house once belonged to a notorious murderess, now out of prison. Anna’s madly curious – well, wouldn’t you be? – and her casual inquiries soon turn to passionate research and then into something very close to obsession. Very close indeed.

We have no cover to show you, because we’re still working on it. While the “spider’s house” of the title could indeed be a reference to Anna’s tidy little cottage, my sense is that, in fact, the spider’s house is Anna’s mind, where her obsession is working faster and faster to spin the web that, ultimately, ensnares both Anna and the reader. In other words, I don’t think we want a picture of a house. What we’re thinking about is images of two women (two profiles facing each other? One woman looking in a mirror and seeing another woman reflected in it?) with, off to the side, a small, delicate, deadly little arachnid, working its web. What do you think?



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