Paperback Release: The House on the Cliff, by Charlotte Williams
The House on the Cliff, by Charlotte Williams. Bourbon Street Books, 338 pp. $14.99
Over the past year, I’ve become increasingly interested in thrillers and mysteries, especially stand-along thrillers that aren’t tied to a specific character. So when I came across Charlotte William’s The House on the Cliff, I absolutely wanted to read it.
Jessica Mayhew is a psychotherapist whose life, and practice, are turned on end when actor Gwyndion Morgan seeks her help for his fear of buttons. He’s about to start a new job, but it’s a period piece and he’s afraid his performance will be overshadowed by his hesitation with his costume.
As Jessica begins to help Gwyndion, though, she becomes sucked into the Morgan family drama. Gwyndion’s father is an incredibly successful director, though he’s equally known for his womanizing. Despite the scandals she unearths as she digs deeper into Gwyndion’s psyche, she wants to help him.
I loved how Charlotte Williams incorporated the setting into The House on the Cliff. The house, as the title suggests, belongs to Gwyndion’s family. There’s an eerie quality that comes from setting a mystery on such a pastoral landscape, and I think that works well in this novel.
I also loved the way Williams breaks down everything, psychologically, in Jessica’s mind. The story is told through her perspective, and so I would expect her to evaluate everything in the way she does. It’s helpful to the reader because it offers another element to the story, and it’s also helpful to Jessica because it allows her character to develop as the story progresses.
My one critique, however, is that I felt The House on the Cliff stayed “on the surface.” I think Williams could have done a lot more with the Morgan family drama, and I think she could have used the house more as a focal point in the story. It is, after all, the title of the book. The mystery would have been a great as a vehicle for a dissection of this family whose greatest blessing–the success both Gwyndion and his father have achieved–is also its greatest curse.
With that in mind, however, I think Williams’ novel is quite strong, especially for a debut. The House on the Cliff is a great option for book clubs, and can be approached from several angles to generate really interesting discussion.