Title: The Upstairs Room
Author: Kate Murray-Browne
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller – supernatural
Book format: (Dugital pre-release copy)
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Description: Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

*Free copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review…

Review:  I’m not sure what to say about this book, it had such a great premise and a great start but it just wasn’t the book I had thought it was going to be.  ‘The Upstairs Room’ sounds like an interesting read, a cross between a spooky/supernatural thriller and a mystery, but the book is more contemporary than either mystery or thriller which is why I’ve had a hard time deciding which genre it should really be in.

The story begins with a brief chapter about Eleanor and Richard viewing the new Victorian property and its strange room upstairs before moving on to after they have bought the place and been living there a short time.  The start really held my attention, the strange room upstairs was what drew me into reading this book and I thought that it would be the main focus of the entire plot, but soon after Zoe moves in as their lodger the story goes off-track and starts to read more like a standard contemporary novel.

Despite Eleanor’s increasing sickness with the house and the occasional spooky happenings that occur, which really are creepy and well written, the rest of the story focuses on the characters personal lives and there are a lot of back stories.  I didn’t mind the back story element at first, I thought it was a great insight into their lives and would lead to something later on, but they don’t.  The story shifts view points between Eleanor, Zoe and Richard although always written in the third person perspective.

I liked Eleanor’s story as it was focused most on the house and finding out what strange things were happening and why.  Richard’s tale was a strange one especially as his backstory about a certain character he meets seemed to have no relevance to the main plot.  I thought it might lead somewhere but it didn’t and didn’t seem to add anything to his character. I don’t want to give away spoilers which makes it hard to really talk about why I disliked his tale so much but I’m left feeling that rather than redeeming his character the book left me feeling uneasy about him.  Zoe’s story kept my attention although her tale was very separate from the others and I thought it would come together in a grand ending of some kind but by the end of this book I’m left feeling that her story was added in to bulk up the whole plot and she could have easily been taken out of the book without really harming the overall plot.

The ending of the book wasn’t satisfying which is rare when I read a book.  I really liked the supernatural edge the later pages took as the story was heading to its end.  I thought there would be something very dramatic and although there was a great moment when some really weird things happened, the overall ending was a disappointment.  The story was never really resolved and any answers as to the history of the place or the real reasons for things happening were never answered.  I’ll have to admit I was also quite annoyed at how the book ends the characters stories, especially Eleanor’s story which seemed to be heading to a powerful ending but then didn’t.  After finishing this book I’m left wondering why the characters didn’t move on/change and it felt like a cheated ending when so much more could have happened.

There is some swearing in the book, mostly during Zoe’s story which sometimes felt a bit harsh and out of place given the overall tone of the writing.  There’s some use of the s and f words and be warned there’s several uses of the c word too.  There’s also some brief sex described which may not be to everybody’s taste.

Although I’ve said a lot of bad things about this book I really thought it was a great supernatural story and it’s just a shame that more of the plot didn’t focus on that.  I really thought I’d be reading a mysterious supernatural thriller when I picked up this book but instead it’s a strange contemporary novel with a supernatural twist which while enjoyable just didn’t end how I hoped it would.  I think those who haven’t read many supernatural novels or those with a keen interest in contemporary fiction would love this far more than those of us who are into the spooky, scary novels,  Overall an interesting and entertaining read but beware the ending might disappoint.

-Review first appeared online July 2017 – now republished here.

Have you read this book?  What do you think of books that don’t quite fit the genre they’re meant to be in?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂