by Ben H. Winters
After quitting her job as an attorney to return to her paint and canvas, Susan finds her creativity completely stifled. She decides that what she needs is a change of scenery, and convinces her husband Alex to move. They find a perfect little brownstone apartment run by a friendly old widow named Andrea. It's a convenient commute for Alex, it's affordable, and there's even an extra “secret” room that Susan can use for a studio. As she's settling in, however, Susan becomes convinced that the house is infested with bedbugs, infestations of which are happening all over New England. They're biting her, leaving itchy red marks that she scratches 'til they're raw. But it seems that Susan is the only one affected...neither Alex nor her daughter, Emma, get a single bite. Is there house infested with devilishly clever bugs, or is Susan simply cracking under the pressure of trying to rekindle her creativity?
Bugs are inherently creepy to me, and a horror novel about a bug infestation is far more effective at keeping me awake at night than, say, an ax murderer. I mean, I can see the ax murderer coming, whereas there could be thousands of bugs hiding in the dark corners of my house and I'd never, ever know. So I thought that a horror novel about them had definite scary potential. Add in the terror of bedbugs – I had to deal with them briefly this summer, while visiting Florence – and it's the stuff of nightmares.
I found that I could identify quite easily with Susan, the main character. She's got a lot of balls that she's trying to keep in the air: she's raising her daughter Emma, she's feeling guilty because she can pursue her dreams of being an artist while her husband works a job he doesn't like to pay the bills, she can't seem to find her creative spark, she needs to cook and clean and keep the apartment in good shape, and her family's being plagued by bedbugs. Although it quickly becomes clear that Susan's not always thinking clearly, I can always understand and sympathize with her, even when she's clearly overreacting and acting like a nutcase.
Winters does a good job of balancing his narrative just right, so that it isn't clear until the final chapters whether Susan's going mad or if the house is full of the bedbugs from hell. His ghastly tale is a quick, easy read that left me feeling rather itchy and paranoid that little creepy crawlies are everywhere...
3 out of 5 stars
To read more about Bedbugs, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.