Review: Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

cover of Looking Glass SoundLooking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
Tor Nightfire (August 8, 2023)
352 pages; $25.19 hardcover; $20.53 paperback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Catriona Ward lures readers with charming coming-of-age humor and strife in her latest novel, Looking Glass Sound, reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Body.”

Those who’ve read Ward’s previous work, Little Eve and The Last House on Needless Street (favorites of mine), know the loveable and exciting are a facade. And the truth, particularly a harsh one, leaves readers black with poison, bitten by the spider, trapped in her intricate web. Twitching with metaphysical dread, desperate for answers.

In the summer of 1989, sixteen-year-old Wilder and his parents travel to their newly inherited cottage on the Maine Coast, Whistler Bay. Wilder soon meets a rugged and handsome teen, Nathaniel, and a fiery redhead girl, Harper. The three form a bond as timeless as Stephen King’s Losers Club (IT), even doing a blood and hemlock bonding “spell” — “to make the promise last to death and beyond” — to promise to return to Whistler Bay as adults.

But Whistler Bay wasn’t all summer sun and beach campfires. The town had a serial killer called “The Dagger Man.”

The creep even took threatening Polaroid shots of sleeping children. Ward gave me nightmares on some of these descriptions. I immediately recalled real-life murders like Ted Bundy, terrorizing sorority homes, and Netflix’s Dahmer: “Relax. I just wanna take some pictures.”

Years later, Wilder can’t shake what happened at Whistler Bay. Can’t forget about…the bodies. He wants to write it all out in a memoir titled, The Dagger Man of Whistler Bay.

Witchcraft and hexes.

The friend who wants to steal Wilder’s story.

That sloshing tomb of black water.

The wide mouths of the caves. Ready to swallow him whole.

Wilder’s character reminded me of Charlie of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, only a bit more vindictive. But still sheepish and easy to empathize with.

Looking Glass Sound is one of the most mind-bending and disorienting reading experiences I’ve ever had. Cronenberg-like visuals and A24-level terror, Ward proves that memory runs deep and how easily longing can become the urge to punish.

Cunning and clever as always, Looking Glass Sound is a complex read. At times, it’s intimidating, but it is so worth the work.

My new favorite from Catriona Ward.

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