An Enthralling Read
BY SHANI ASOKAN
I am a mood reader, and in October I often find myself reaching for horror or thrillers that are on the creepier side of the genre. So, it is no surprise that I saved The Nesting by C.J. Cooke for what those who celebrate Halloween call ‘spooky season’. When I first heard about this book, I couldn’t believe my good luck. There are two things I look for in a horror novel: haunted places and sleepy small towns. The Nesting claimed to combine both these elements in a Nordic noir-eque suspense thriller with a modern twist.
What’s more, this book was largely marketed as Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key meets Haunting of Bly Manor, two of my favourite things to come out of the pandemic years. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me tell you a little about this book. Published in 2020, The Nesting follows a young woman, Lexi Ellis, who accepts a job as a nanny, and soon finds out that her new home in Norway is not all what it seems. Before the nanny job, Lexi has hit rock bottom; in quick succession she has been through a suicide attempt, a bad break up and now homelessness after being kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment.
With nowhere to go, and barely any money to her name, when the opportunity to become a live-in nanny for an architect and his two young children, all but falls into her arms, she seizes it without hesitance. Architect Tom Faraday has just lost his wife Aurelia to apparent suicide and is weighed down by grief. To him, Lexi seems like the perfect candidate for the nanny position; she’s warm, smart, has all the right qualifications, and the kids love her. She seems to be exactly who he needs to come with his family from London to Norway.
To Lexi, the opportunity is better than she could ever have imagined. She instantly loves the Faraday children, and is excited to move to the sleepy countryside in Norway, with its beautiful vistas and cool mountain air. However, once she arrives at Grand Haus, she soon realizes her new home leaves much to be desired. The house is old and drafty, and seems full of dark secrets - including ones about Aurelia and her untimely death. If I had to describe this book in one sentence, I would say that it is a bone-chilling blend of gothic thriller, Nordic folklore and family mystery, a book that begs to be read until lights out and then well after (except you might want to keep the lights on).
One of the best things about this book was the atmosphere. The author describes the Nordic countryside in a way that you feel like cold on your skin, and want nothing more than to curl up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate - despite the fact that you live in a tropical country its is at least 32 degrees outside. Reading this book had me visualizing lush green grass, and thick foresty groves, an ice blue river or fjord, and steep slate gray cliffs. Combine this with the gothic haunted house vibes, and you have a near-perfect reading experience, and a book you can’t seem to put down. The plot seems pretty straight forward at first, but soon you can’t stop guessing.
Having read countless thrillers, more often than not, I find myself able to guess the ending of the story (or at least the main twist) around halfway through a book. So, I was pleasantly surprised when this book had me doubting my guesses right up until the final chapters and the reveal. The author does a great job of casting suspicion around, and making every character slightly shady, or more than what they seem to be. Finally, the only thing I didn’t enjoy about this book was the pacing. However, I was to prefix this by saying, this (to me, at least) was very minor and didn’t take too much away from the reading experience.
The beginning of the book is a bit of a slow burn, we learn a bit about Lexi’s old life, before jumping into the main story. This, and the slightly uneven pacing throughout the book is why I’d give this book a four out of five stars rather than a full five. Though, like I said, this is not to say this book wasn’t a solid read, my abovediscussed thoughts should convince you of that. So, if you, like me, love reading a little horror/gothic suspense thriller during the month of October, I’d definitely recommend you pick up The Nesting by C. J. Cooke. If nothing else, the spooky vibes alone will get you right into the Halloween spirit. Boo!