Nesting is seriously spooky, says Sheffield reviewer
Lexi Ellis is at rock bottom.She’s homeless, just been dumped by her boyfriend and her mental health is in freefall.
So, she does what any sensible woman would do and commits identity fraud to secure a job in a spooky remote house in an unfamiliar country, working for a family in which someone has recently died under mysterious circumstances.
This is the premise of The Nesting, the latest book by poet and novelist CJ Cooke.
And what follows is a delicious combination of thriller, mystery and gothic horror story.
As Lexi settles down to her nanny job, she learns all about the Montessori method and vegan cookery on YouTube – some reviewers have found it difficult to believe she could learn a whole new skill set by video tutorial; they can’t have worked with as many epic blaggers as I have.
As time passes, she discovers layer upon layer of secrets in this bereaved family and their entourage.
Where the book really shines is in its use of Nordic myth.
Cooke deftly weaves these ancient stories into her modern day setting, as both Lexi and, in flashback sections, the dead mother of her charges, read from a book of old legends.
The atmosphere created by these fascinating, but macabre stories permeates the whole book, both grounding it in a sense of place and also lending it an otherworldly quality.
The Norwegian setting is beautifully realised throughout, and the impact the characters are having on the spectacular landscape is a major theme of the book.
I have to admit that, as the dark forces at work begin to show themselves, The Nesting became a strictly daylight hours only read for me.
Lexi is such a well rounded, real character that she keeps us fully immersed in the story, fully immersed up to our necks as it all gets seriously spooky.
Cooke successfully combines a number of different elements and inspirations in this book to create one gripping whole.
And, who knows, if you’re made of sterner stuff than me, you might even be able to continue reading after the sun has gone down.