A Sickness In the Family by Denise Mina

First off, I’m rather sorry to admit that I wasn’t able to really enjoy Here Be Dragons by Stella Gibbons because I just couldn’t stand one of the characters.  Never before have I ever let something as trivial as this affect my enjoyment of a book, but John’s utter selfishness made me want to smack someone across the head and the only one closest to me was my husband.  He doesn’t deserve that.  Anyways, I manage to leisurely skim through all the way to the end, and I am satisfied with Nell’s -the protagonist- conclusion. I adored her; she was assertive, naive but adaptable.  Okay, everything about this book with the exception of John was fantastic, though I did find myself wincing at the casual racism and sexism of that particular era.  Would I give this book another chance?  Depends.  Is John still going to be in it?  Ugh.

Anywhoo, to muffle the feeling of failure that always plagues me whenever I choose to give up on a book, I look for something short and quick to read, preferably off my husband’s shelf.  Fortunately, the library just sent me an email this morning alerting me of the sudden availability of some books I had placed on reserved last week, and I scored this creepy looking family affair, A Sickness in the Family.

Written by Scottish author Denise Mina and with art by Antonio Fuso, A Sickness in the Family is a taunt and suspense-filled story that follows the ill-fated Ushers, a seemingly normal family on the surface. There’s Biddy and Ted, their children Amy, William, and Sam, and Biddy’s mother Martha.  With the exception of Sam and elderly Martha, everyone is constantly lashing out each other.  The hostility within the family intensifies when Ted begins renovations to their home after purchasing the flat below theirs previously belonging to a couple who was found murdered not too long ago.  Very soon, stranger, more deadly incidents begin to occur, but only Sam seems to truly care about what is happening in their home.  After a bit of online research, Sam begins to suspect that the house is haunted by the vengeful spirit of a witch.  But could it really be the supernatural, or is there something else at play here, orchestrating the Ushers’ demise?

Everyone in the family with the exception of Sam is either too wrapped up in themselves or in their shared antipathy of each other to care about the growing danger.  When death begins to strike them down one by one, suspicion and accusations sown through years of simmering resentment fly among the remaining family members.  Through it all, Sam seems to be the only one truly trying keep it together, while his hostile siblings never fail to remind him of his outsider status as the adopted son.  Biddy and Ted are in the midst of marital problems and are unable to see past their bitterness until it’s too late.

Rendered in stark black and white, A Sickness in the Family is a well-crafted, atmospheric thriller, full of flawed characters who each harbor a motive for committing murder.  The twist towards the end, while not shocking did startle me because I’d kept this person in mind as a suspect, I just wasn’t expecting it to go down as it did.

Hn.  I couldn’t properly get through one book because of one selfish character, but I just finished one that featured not one, but several characters who scored a smidgen higher on the Selfish-O-Meter than he did.  I’m going to dwell on this for awhile, aren’t I?

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