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The Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott - review

"Laudanum: tincture of opium. Used in the Victorian period as a painkiller and to cure a wide variety of ailments, including insomnia."

Title: The Devil in the Corner
Author: Patricia Elliott

Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Available: now
Buy it: Here

Synopsis

Maud has suffered years as a governess at the hands of malicious children and even worse employers after the death of her parents, so when she is offered the chance to live with her cousin-by-marriage - the perpetually ill Juliana - she cannot wait for the chance of a peaceful life and, perhaps, the chance to have real family. However, Maud soon finds herself in an unfriendly battle of wills, against her benefactor, against her housemaids and against those in the local village as she becomes increasingly dependent on laudanum to keep the nightmares of her past at bay and find the love she seeks.

Review

The Devil in the Corner takes on a number of classic gothic tropes and bundles them together in a nod towards well known tales such as Flowers In The Attic and The Turn Of The Screw. The familiarity of the themes; the governess, the ailing relative, the house too big for it's lonely inhabitants, all conjure an expectation of what this story is to be. In large part, it is a spooky story of loss and loneliness, in which characters are tormented by their past deeds in such a way as to manifest in ill-feeling towards each other.
In small part, the book departs entirely from this to follow a piece by piece account of courtship between Maud and a local painter, followed by the same between Maud and an older, richer suitor.

This smaller part of the book felt like a huge departure from the main story of tension and mystery, and felt very distracting from the issues I, as a reader, was keen to get back to - was Maud hallucinating the shadowy figures that haunt her due to laudanum? Was her "cousin" really ill? Was her cook's daughter, Edie, really as manipulative as she appeared? Fans of gothic thrillers may feel a little frustrated at being suddenly presented with such a lean towards romance for a sustained period of reading. I was, however, happy to find the story soon found its dark and looming atmosphere again and got us straight back to the mystery.

The story itself is not very groundbreaking - as mentioned before it is a nod towards tales that have come before it - but the journey through the pages was fun and intriguing, if not surprising. I found a lot of the clues alluding the ending's revelations were heavily signalled to the reader, perhaps for a younger audience, and this felt a bit at odds with the relationship detailing that was more mature in subject.

Overall

The Devil in the Corner had all the ingredients for a good gothic thriller but fell a little flat midway through. Clues were laid heavily throughout the plot, perhaps to help a younger reader, but I felt the relationship content and insinuations of adultery were perhaps aimed at a higher age bracket than the leading clues suggested. A fun read, but not a stand-out book in gothic YA fiction.

Score 
★★★

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