I’ve never really been a big horror person, but occasionally, I do take the time to dabble in the genre with one or two books. Apartment 16 is the latest horror novel I tried and I’m damn glad I did! This is Adam Nevill’s second published book, after his debut, Banquet of the Damned, but is the first of his books I read. Without a doubt, Apartment 16 does something right; this is one book you will pick up and not put down until its done. Also, perhaps because of how different to almost everything else I’ve read this year, this novel standouts particularly as one of my best reads of the year up to now.
In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartement. No one goes in no one comes out. And it’s been that way for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance and investigates. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever.
A young American woman, Apryl, arrives a Barrington House. She’s been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumours claim Lillian was mad. But her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago.
Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming evil still inhabits the building. And the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying...
What more can you ask from a horror novel than that it be creepy, smart, fast and tense? Apartment 16 fills all those criteria. Very rarely does a book grab at me like this one has. Nevill excels at creating an austere setting for the book, Barrington House, which by the end we know and are wary of. The plot itself is well developed and unfolded. Though the denouement leaves a bit to be desired, the rest of the novel is brimming with twists, turns and reveals. Nevill has you jumping at every shadow (in the book, of course) and questioning every abnormality. The backstory, or what happened in Barrington House during the forties, is critical to the resolution of the story and a pleasure to discover as it unfolds bit by bit.
Nevill opts for a storytelling that bounces back and forth between our two main characters, the Barrington House night porter, Seth, and Apryl, the young woman who’s just claimed an apartment in the building. Because these two story-lines never meet there is for the better part of the novel a constant level of tension. Both characters are doing they’re own things, both doing interesting things, but its hard not to want to spend more time with Apryl than Seth, partially because his passages lack a certain drive in the middle of the book, while Apryl’s chapters are slowly pealing back the mysteries of Barrington House. Through both point of views, Nevill aptly transmits a sense of unease with the building and the events unfolding in them, and eventually a considerable amount of terror.
As characters, Seth and Apryl are disturbingly different. Seth very early on becomes different in personality, and his eccentricity is what keeps you intrigued by this character. Apryl, on the other hand, is the character with which to empathize, obviously, as she is the protagonist and the easiest character to identify with. Apart from those two there are only a few other character, all much less present as Seth and Apryl spend a surprising amount of time alone, yet they are also key to the story. Though they may not be as eccentric as Seth (at least on the surface), compared to anyone else the other residents of Barrington house are nothing if not strange.
I had a difficult time putting Apartment 16 down. That is, in itself, a good indication as to the quality of Adam Nevill’s novel. It captivated me and is sure to entrance any of its readers. I honestly cannot recommend this enough. Even standing at 450 pages, Apartment 16, because of its crazy pace, reads quickly and so is perfect for a short spook. I, for one, will be on the look out for anything else Mr. Nevill decides to throw readers’ way, because if its just half as good as this one, it will be well worth it.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Adam Nevill's Website: http://www.adamlgnevill.com/
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