Ohh this is a creepy old book! Emerald Fennel's murder mystery is set in a Cornish seaside town, where the bodies of young women washing up to shore shocks the locals and sparks a wide scale investigation. Delighted by the murders is a 12-year-old girl, our narrator, who is spending the summer in the town staying with her aunt and uncle who run a crumbling hotel. After the deaths of her parents in a freak accident several years previous, she is obsessed with all things dark and macabre. Befriending the mollycoddled son of a hotel guest, she and Miles Giffard spend the summer investigating the murders, and playing their own murder games with each other, which mostly involve attempting to drown each other. There are so many levels of unsettling creepiness in this novel. We never learn our narrators name, and there is a struggle to be on her side, as is it hard to tell whether our sympathies should lie with her, although this changes as the book progresses and the behaviour of those around her becomes all the more troubling. This is definitely not a book for children. Other dark undertones come in the form of the girl's uncle, who visits her room at night, where we presume abuse takes place, and in Miles' bizarre relationship with his mother, who among other things insists they bathe together. Despite all the dark, unsettling creepiness, there is also plenty of humour in the form of our narrator's darkly humorous observations of those around her. If you're into dark humour and murder mystery, this could be the book for you!
Six quotes to sum up the dark, creepy, humour of Monsters:
1. The book opens with:
"My parents got smushed to death in a boating accident when I was nine. Don't worry- I'm not that sad about it."
"I've been reading a book called The Murderers' Who's Who, which I took from Granny's bookcase before I left. It has a bloody dagger on the cover, and an alphabetical list of all the best murderers from the past. It even has some pictures in the middle, mostly of the victims, which you can look at to get a bit of an idea of what all the murderers have done. So I'll read that in bed, waiting for the sun to come up."
"'Peculiar' is one of my least favourite words. Everyone is always describing me as 'peculiar', especially grown ups. They called me peculiar when I gave the school gardener lemonade with wee in it, and they called me peculiar when I went to school wearing one of Granny's suits. Grown-ups never understand any of my jokes, but then kids don't really either."
"I read in one of my murder books that if you leave bodies long enough then they fill up with goo and go bang like balloons if you prick them. I could see the barnacled anchor near the dead lady's leg and was hoping that one of the ambulance men would tip her onto it by mistake and she'd explode all over the deck, but they managed to slither her onto the stretcher without so much as a pop."
"Then I got to watch his wispy moustache droop with embarrassment while I told him in detail about my parents drowning and getting minced up in the ship's propeller. I even teared up a bit for good measure, to really butter the bread nice and thick."
"There is a mangy cat that keeps showing up at the hotel. It's missing an eye, and it stinks. Aunt Maria has taken a shine to it and has insisted that she and Uncle Frederick take it in. She thinks the hotel could do with 'some character'. I personally think that a whiffy one-eyed cat isn't the kind of character a posh hotel should be striving for... Aunt Maria has named the cat Ruffles. Miles and I have named it Fucko."
I received a copy of Monsters from Hot Key Books, in return for an honest review.
All views are entirely my own and not influenced by the freeness of the book!