The Two Houses By Fran Cooper – A Review

Publisher: Hodder And Stoughton

I’m not even immediately aware of where I heard about this one but when I went on my recent jaunt to Bath it was one of the purchases I made whilst in the spectacular Mr B’s Reading Emporium.

This book is from start to finish a bit of me. Old spooky house with a history *tick*, a close knit village with secrets *tick*, remote setting with inclement weather *tick*, newcomers to the village who the residents are suspicious of *big fat tick*.

So what do we have here? The Two Houses tells the story of Jay and Simon, London dwellers by nature. Jay is a ceramicist and Simon is an architect. When Jay has a nervous breakdown brought on by her inability to have children, Simon suggests that they find a weekend property they can renovate and use as an escape from the city and an escape from their problems.

They embark upon a search for the perfect property and decide on Two Houses, which is exactly as it sounds. A house which used to be one building but has been separated into two. The reason for this being, so legend has it, that the previous owner lost his child and then his wife in fairly quick succession and the middle rooms were supposedly haunted by the spirit of his wife.

Jay and Simon are not sure about these stories but Jay finds them fascinating and when human remains are found during their building works on the house her determination to find out what actually happened intensifies.

We hear about life in the village not only through Jay’s and Simon’s eyes but various characters in the village too. Tom the pub landlord, Angela the pub cleaner, Ned, Tom’s father and Jacob Tom’s brother.

Right from the outset there are strange goings on at Two Houses and I must admit I did hold off starting this book until it was daytime! I’m glad I did to be honest! The first few chapters really gave me chills and built the suspense perfectly. The descriptions of the remote, bleak location meant that I had Two Houses and the village perfectly mapped out in my head.

The characters were all so well developed and fascinating. There was a real sense of claustrophobia in their village life. The tension was at times palpable. Their fascination with the newcomers, their trepidation at the building works going on up at Two Houses and the secrets they were hoping would stay buried forever. The relationships between all the villagers are also very interesting. It’s fascinating to see how they interact with each other and how their various paths have crossed. I find small village life intriguing and at times understood how Jay and Simon must have felt being the newcomers or ‘offcomers’ as the villagers dubbed them.

I really enjoyed getting involved with trying to unravel the mystery. Who did the human remains belong to? Why were they there? And how did this person end up being forgotten about. Jay does her best to try and piece together the mystery but the villagers are all very tight lipped and her determination in finding out what happened starts to impact her marriage to Simon.

This book was a perfect mystery. I love a decades old riddle to be solved, piece by piece all the evidence slotting slowly into place. Punctuated with a paragraph or two from a voice from the past this was a very atmospheric read. At times it put me in mind of Sarah Moss’ Night Waking.

I recommend you start it during the day though!

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xx

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