Review: Where Monsters Lie – Polly Ho-Yen

Having tweeted about how much I enjoyed Polly Ho-Yen’s debut novel, The Boy in the Tower, I was very excited when she contacted me a few months later and offered to send me something else to read.

Where Monsters Lie centres around mystery and seemingly inexplicable events. In the tiny village of Mivtown, everybody knows everybody else. And everybody’s heard the legend of the monsters of the loch:

The adults used it to scare us away from the water, but we were hazy about what the monsters actually were or even what would raise them. All we knew was that the monsters were supposed to lead you into the water.

The story opens on the night of “the offering” – an annual ritual designed to keep the monsters at bay. When Effie and her family return from the offering, they find that Effie’s rabbit, Buster, has vanished. Buster is not the only thing to go missing in this book -before long, Effie’s mum also disappears, seemingly without trace.

At this point I feel it’s only fair to offer a friendly word of warning: THERE ARE SLUGS IN THIS BOOK! Having lived in a house a few years ago where slugs were a persistent nuisance (trust me, you’ve never known true ick until you’ve stood barefoot on a slug at 3am whilst carrying your crying baby downstairs for a night feed), it’s safe to say I’m not their biggest fan (then again, who is?). Shortly after Effie’s mum disappears, Effie starts to find slugs around the house on a regular basis. It seems innocuous enough at first but soon the sheer numbers and strange behaviour patterns of the slugs mean they are impossible to ignore:

Slugs atop slugs atop slugs.

Effie and her best friend Finn decide to try to solve the mystery. What has happened to Effie’s mum? What’s going on with the slugs? Why are “the oldies” acting so shiftily? And is any of it linked to the legend of the loch?

This is one seriously atmospheric book. Polly’s descriptions of Mivtown, the landscape and the loch, make the setting feel like an integral character, as crucial to the story as anything else. She has a way of writing that gets right under your skin (and makes your skin crawl, in the case of the slugs!). Effie is sad, angry, bewildered, determined, stubborn and hopeful; and Finn is calm, honest and good; whilst the evasive manner of almost all the adults evokes just the right amount of suspense and uneasiness.

Where Monsters Lie is an intriguing, captivating read and I can’t wait to see what Polly Ho-Yen comes up with next!

Emma

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