Looking Glass Sound

Cover of Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
Catriona Ward
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Oct 24, 2023

With the climax of the spooky season just around the corner, we thought it might be fun to spotlight a spooky read here at #NoWaitWednesday. For that, there were some recent horror novels that were excellent contenders for the spotlight, but Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward really jumped off the shelf, primarily because it isn't, technically, a horror novel - it's more of a dark, atmospheric psychological thriller with some horror elements lurking around the edges. Which makes it a great gateway read for those patrons who might like the idea of a horror novel this time of year but are scared away (ha!) by the more grisly or extreme elements that the genre can offer. Ward is a bit more thoughtful, a bit more old-school, focused on twisty plots and disquieting tension between interesting and flawed characters. If that sounds more like your jam, then allow me to introduce you to Catriona Ward, one of the most dynamic and critically acclaimed novelists working in this space in recent years. She won the Shirley Jackson Award in 2019 with Little Eve, and 2021's breakout hit The Last House on Needless Street was praised by everyone from Sarah Pinborough to the New York Times to Stephen King himself. With all those voices - and more - praising her novels, you know you're in for a spooky ride. 

With her latest, Looking Glass Sound, the novel begins in a remote seaside cottage off the coast of Maine with a young boy, Wilder, who's uncle has recently passed away and left the cottage to Wilder's parents, who are in the middle of a very shaky marriage. Wilder finds some local friends, Nathaniel and Harper, and they explore the local area and become obsessed with the whispers of a figure, called the Dagger Man, allegedly responsible for leaving Polaroid photos of sleeping children near his victims that the police are still puzzled by. Is the Dagger Man still at large? Is he connected with one of Wilder's friends? This coming-of-age story then switches gears to Wilder's college years where he meets an outlandish aspiring author who is constantly questioning Wilder about those Maine summers long ago, and eventually publishes a novel based on Wilder's memories.

Ward's delightfully unsettling novel is almost origami-like in its ability to fold a plot twist into another plot twist into still yet another plot twist that readers will never see coming. While at the same time, she excels at character work that turns her characters on the page into fully three-dimensional beings, each with their hopes, dreams, and (sometimes eerie) desires lurking underneath. All of Ward's novels are worth a look, of course, but be sure to check out Looking Glass Sound for an excellent example of what she can bring to the table - and a novel that fits neatly (if unsettlingly) into the spooky season. Place your holds, and we hope you enjoy!

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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