this is a zoomy and entertaining horror-comedy novel that makes me very glad i have never owned a cellphone.
kate collins thinks she’s hit the romantic jackpot when, after a whirlwind courtship of only a few months, her dreamy boyfriend scott—so easy to talk to, so in synch with her own interests, so good in the bedroom—asks her to move in with him. ignoring the tiny red flags—why hasn’t she met any of his friends or family?, how well does she really know this guy?, why does he sometimes seem a bit off, and—most worryingly—why did he suddenly stop returning her texts and calls the day before her move-in date?—she takes the plunge, packs up everything she owns and drives all the way from leeds to brighton to start her new life; after all, she’s not getting any younger and she’s had rotten luck in the relationship department until now. besides, kate’s got some secrets of her own that she has yet to share with scott.
but when she gets to his flat, it has been emptied, the heat and electricity disconnected, with no scott, no note, no explanation. all scott has left behind is his smartphone and a weird creepy face drawn on the glass door leading to the balcony.
her former job and apartment already gone, kate has no choice but to move in anyway and try to figure out what happened to scott and why he decided to ghost her in such a cruel and elaborate way.
and then things get spooooooky: scott’s phone starts receiving cryptic and scary-whispery calls, deep scratch marks begin to appear on the wooden door, and kate can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. a paramedic for fifteen years, she’s seen a lot of death, but she’s never seen a ghost or any evidence that there’s anything more to the human experience once death occurs:
The sorry truth is, dead people resemble complex biological systems that have ground to a random and sometimes ugly halt. What we humans think of as our minds, it’s all electricity. All our thoughts, desires, and funniest jokes, they’re just lightning bolts, bouncing around inside a bag of meat.
and yet…things begin to happen that kate can’t explain and—sleeping in a cold apartment lit only by candles, bewildered by scott’s disappearance and becoming increasingly obsessed with getting into his phone, which surely holds all the answers to her questions, her mental state begins to teeter into crazytown until her best friend izzie comes to stay with her and after that…well crazytown is all around them.
it’s 450 pages of short chapters, some of which are just text-bubbles, so it’s a deceptively quick read, and it’s a very successful mix of comedy and spooky, which is always a risky combo unless you’re grady hendrix. the story flits back-and-forth in time, which allows arnopp to control how he reveals the reveals; bringing up new questions just as he’s satisfying others, sustaining and escalating the ominous tone, and still finding room for some laffs.
kate and izzy’s relationship is wonderful—all the banter and ribbing and support and forgiveness, mostly coming from izzy’s direction, as kate is frequently shitty and self-involved, but it reads like an authentic female friendship, and we would all be lucky to have an izzy in our corner.
it’s a wonderful, fresh piece of modern horror; all the perils of tinder and social media anxiety and cellphone addiction into which the supernatural elbows its way and refuses to be swiped-left.
maybe now i will finally pick up my copy of The Last Days of Jack Sparks…
i am starting my ‘october is spooky’ reading a day early!