I have always been picky in the genres of thriller, horror and mystery. I tried to stick to the classics in these genres, and so far I was happy. It was my misfortune that every time I picked up a modern thriller or horror, the book somehow disappointed me. Encouraged by my book-club friends, I dared to pick up ‘House of Hollow‘ written by Krystal Sutherland. I needed to explore the gems of this genre and there is no better time of the year than autumn, the season of Halloween, for such spooky, otherworldly stories. I was not disappointed this time.
House of Hollow is thrilling, mysterious and irresistible. It feels like a fairy-tale possessed by a dark spirit. Filled with unsettling events and gory details, it is a perilous beauty.
The Hollow sisters, Grey, Vivi and Iris mysteriously disappear at New Year’s midnight while walking down a street in Edinburgh with their parents, Gabe and Cate Hollow. The youngest daughter Iris is seven and the oldest one, Grey, is eleven when they are lost.
The Police are unable to find any trace of the girls even after an extensive search. After one month, they reappear in an alleyway of Edinburgh, huddled together, naked and unharmed, with identical half-moon scars at the base of their throats.
Both Gabe and Cate are overjoyed to get their daughters back, but the girls have changed. The colour of their eyes have turned black from blue, their teeth have transformed and their hairs have turned white. They have no memory of the time when they went missing, and they are almost always hungry.
As the sisters grow up, they develop exceptional beauty and an unusual power to attract and influence people. They also have to face discrimination in school due to their troubled past. Both Grey and Vivi drop out of school. Grey goes on to become a famous supermodel and fashion designer and Vivi travels the world with her music band. Iris stays with her mother Cate and continues to excel at studies, hoping to rise above her past experiences and find a secure, fulfilling and normal life as a medical student.
The mysteries of their past begin to surface again, as a man with his face hidden in a bull skull seems to be following Iris, and soon Grey goes missing again. Grey has left clues like breadcrumbs for Vivi and Iris. Following those clues, the two younger sisters set out to find the eldest one. Mysteries unfold and shocking incidents start taking place one after another.
“Nothing in her life had ever been neat or ordered. She slammed through the world, a tornado in the form of a girl, and left a trail of destruction behind her.”
Grey Hollow is an exceptional character. Her powerful, enigmatic and intoxicating presence could be felt throughout the book. She loves her sisters fiercely and can do anything to save them from harm. Vivi is independent, outspoken and does as she pleases. She leaves home soon after Grey, and travels to famous cities of the world with her music band. Iris is the quiet, sensitive and caring sister who tries to avoid all kinds of attention and limelight. She likes to lead a simple life with her overprotective mother. The sisters live far away from each other, but the invisible bond they share is so strong that they feel each other’s presence in a unique and queer way.
The entire book smells of death, decay, danger and destruction. The world created by the author in this book is worthy of applause. It sends chills down your spine as you go through all the details. Sometimes the description is so gruesome that it may really make you feel ‘yuck!’, but you will not be at peace until you finish the book. Moreover, the ending is going to unsettle you again.
The elements of fantasy, fairytale, mystery and thriller have been wonderfully combined to create this enticing story. The folklores and ancient beliefs have been used in their darkest versions. The character development of the protagonist Iris is one of the best outcomes of the plot. What I liked most about the book is that it was not just pure entertainment. The plot is driven by the effects of power, love and moral sense.
The book ended without answering a lot of questions and some things remained shrouded in mystery. I hope the author comes up with a sequel of this book with all those answers. If you want to read something really scary this Halloween, I highly recommend this book.
“My heart beat in time with hers. The three of us, with the exact same rhythm in our chests. When one was scared, the hearts of the others knocked. If you cut us open and peeled back the skin, I was sure you’d find something strange: one organ shared, somehow, between three girls.”