Authors take on pen names for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a desire to signal that their new book is very different from what readers have seen from them previously. That is certainly the case for Liv Andersson—the new nom de plume used by Wendy Tyson—with her release of Little Red House. It cannot be stressed enough that this book is very unlike Tyson’s previous work. Little Red House is a dark noir tale unafraid of venturing down some truly depraved avenues with more than it’s share of WTF moments. This is not a book for every reader, but for those that are willing to take a risk, it proves to be a rewarding reading experience.
Talking about Little Red House is almost impossible without spoilers, but let’s give it a go. The book is told with dual timelines—1997 and present day. In the past section, Eve Foster travels to New Mexico looking for her missing 16-year-old daughter, Kelsey. Readers know from the opening chapter that Kelsey is locked away in a dank cellar, fighting for her life. The present-day portion of the tale is narrated by Constance Foster, one of Eve’s adopted twin daughters. Eve has just died under unusual circumstances and the reading of her will proves to be the start—or end—of a very twisted plan. Eve has left the bulk of her estate and thirty million dollars to the favored child, Constance’s twin sister Lisa; while Connie herself receives only a dilapidated shack in New Mexico. Connie is sure this is another chess move in a sick game that has dominated her life.
From this simple description, veteran crime fiction readers are likely already drawing conclusions and predicting the trajectory of this storyline. Let me assure you, Little Red House is going to far weirder and unexpected places than most readers would ever be able to imagine. This is both a good and bad thing. Most readers crave new and fresh ideas, books that defy expectations while surprising with each turn of the page. However, some readers also get very uncomfortable being taken outside of their comfort zone. If you are in the latter category, Little Red House may not be the book for you. To fully enjoy this novel, readers will have to suspend more than the average amount of disbelief and just go with the flow as each wicked development takes the storyline to deeper and darker places. And in the end, most people will want to forget that these types of things—some even worse, unfortunately—really do occur in the real world.
Wendy Tyson has a loyal following in the cozy community. Little Red House violates every traditional guideline for that sub-genre. While nothing is technically gratuitous, Liv Andersson pulls no punches when it comes to sex, language, and violence (especially against women). All of this is necessary for the tale the author is telling here but it could easily be Exhibit One in any argument in favor of trigger warnings. In many ways, it is this willingness to go to these forbidden places that makes Little Red House stand out from the crowd. This wildly unexpected narrative satisfies in ways that readers might not even know they need. And it will leave fans wondering what type of book Liv Andersson could possibly write to follow this crazy tale.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.