4.5 / 5 Stars
Unsettling rather than full-blown horror, with a very clever storyline. I like!
Like many people, I'm well-versed with the urban legend of the Slender Man; not to mention the real-life horrors that followed the birth of the myth. It's easy to see how writers would be inspired by such a dark, eerie notion - and this novel showcases just how influential these types of legends can be.
I was expecting some sort of faithful representation of the Slender Man; a horror perhaps, or at the least a very dark thriller. However, it went against my expectations in many regards, and mainly in a good way.
The story, which flits to the present and the past, focuses on Amber; a girl that we find out early on is a murderer, cleared publicly of her crime, and now something of a celebrity. As the tale progresses, we find out more about her mother, Sadie - a haunted woman convinced that her daughter is cursed; so much so that she's willing to walk out on her for years to save her. Miles, Amber's father, seems a decent enough sort, though it becomes apparent that he's got secrets too.
Greta, who is attempting to interview Amber for a documentary, can see vulnerability in her - something that her colleague Tom thinks is ridiculous. The question is - which version of Amber is the real one? The scarred teenage girl who's been through hell and come out the other side? Or a monster in a young woman's clothing?
For the first hundred pages or so of this book, it felt much like many other supernatural thrillers I'd read. The 'Tall Man' remained vague, the suspense was slowly being built, and I felt myself thinking that it was a solid 4-stars - entertaining, gripping, but not much different to other books in this genre.
Then all of a sudden, things really picked up. I loved the ambiguity of it all - the continual flip-flopping between 'oh yes this is definitely some evil supernatural forces at work' and 'it's all in their heads'. Even at the end, which had a firm conclusion, there was still a tiny question-mark of doubt, which I thought was clever.
I also didn't see the ending coming. In addition to the major twist, there were a few minor ones that completely took me by surprise, which is always very satisfying in books like this. The only minor quibble I'd level at it is the portrayal of the 'Tall Man' himself. I accept the author was trying to keep him as a shadowy threat and nothing more, but he felt a little too insubstantial at times, and thus not quite as menacing as he could have been. The spooky little girl companion was far more convincing.
But this small point aside, it was a great read - I'd recommend.