Death and the Seaside

Bonnie Falls is chronically unable to make her way in life. She left university before completing her English degree, her attempts at becoming a writer have resulted in nothing but a collection of unfinished stories, and she moves between casual work with indifference. About to turn 30, she moves out on her own for the first time, at her parents' request. In a dingy flat cluttered with abandoned possessions of previous tenants, she meets landlady Sylvia Slythe, who shares without details that she once knew Bonnie's mother, and Bonnie herself when she was a young child. Sylvia becomes interested in one of Bonnie's unfinished stories, one where a young woman in a seaside town is hounded by mysterious messages, and Bonnie is inspired to continue it. Although Bonnie says the setting is fictional, Sylvia believes she recognizes it and urges Bonnie to accompany her on a trip there to find out how the story ends.

Alison Moore (The Pre-War House and Other Stories) has crafted a taut, economical work of psychological suspense that often echoes Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Interrupting the main narrative with portions of Bonnie's story as well as writings that slowly reveal Sylvia's past and the deeper roots of her interest in Bonnie, Moore builds a slow burn within a brief novel that contemplates the power of stories--both the kind we read and write, and the kind we tell each other about our futures. This is an eerie, tense novel about compulsion and control that will linger with readers for far longer than the time it takes to read. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library

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