November 26, 2017

Dawn Kurtagich: "The Creeper Man"

Title: The Creeper Man (UK edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
   And the Trees Crept In (US edition) [on Amazon | on Goodreads*]
[*Friendly advice: beware the And the Trees Crept In pages on Amazon and Goodreads though. They will tell you THE WHOLE STORY, twist included...]
Series: None
Author: Dawn Kurtagich [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: SPOILER - click on the Spoiler button below if you want to know, since revealing the genre(s) would ruin your reading experience...If you want to go into the book without knowing anything vital about it, I recommend that you not read the Labels at the end of my review either. No need to worry though - the review itself will be spoiler-free...
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Baffling, deliciously disturbing (apart from the snake-in-the-toilet incident 😖), based on an interesting premise that it's only revealed at the end.
Cons: The story itself, the lack of answers (not to mention questions) and the romance are very frustrating at times, and only make sense when you get to the final reveal (well, the romance not so much).
WARNING! Horror and gore. Domestic abuse.
Will appeal to: Fans of unreliable narrators and claustrophobic, haunted settings.

Blurb: When Silla and her little sister, Nori, escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing; every day the surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house; a mysterious boy appears from the enclosing wood offering friendship, and Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest. A man with no eyes who creeps ever closer. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: This one will be a challenge for me. I have so many feelings about this book, and every one of them might trigger a spoiler. Then again, we don't want spoilers, do we? So I will employ all my best tricks in order to avoid them 😉. Or better, I will use my magic spoiler button that you can hit in case you've read TCM already, or you don't plan on reading it. Because I need to take a few thing off my chest, and I would be a happy bunny if you felt like discussing this book with me (in that case, please be a darling and mark your comment as SPOILER - thank you!). And now, onto the actual review...


The Creeper Man is Dawn Kurtagich's second book, and you can easily see a pattern here: she's clearly a fan of creepy houses, stories told via multiple media (especially diaries) and unreliable narrators. But while those all worked for me in The Dead House, I found The Creeper Man frustrating in more than a way. Everything came together in the end, sort of - but though I'm a firm believer in rereading books in order to appreciate them more (and this causes me to up my first tentative ratings sometimes), they still have to make sense while I'm reading them...not only after the grand final reveal. For a while, I was filing all the weird occurrences or the things that didn't add up under "your average creepy stuff that will fall into place at some point"...until Aunt Cath locked herself in the attic. That was the novel's turning point, after which I started getting frustrated by the chapter, and even if I was still enjoying the horror aspect of the story and the mystery behind it, I couldn't believe how everyone was carrying on. [...]


The first problem I met was the snake-in-the-toilet incident (BTW, that was GROSS. Just sayin'). It should have warned me there was something more than met the eye, what with not being mentioned or acknowledged in the whole book ever again, but since apparently there were two witnesses of that scene, I didn't know what to make of it - the whole "unreliable narrator" theory didn't seem appropriate. And I still think that the author could (and should) have found a different medium to warn us that things weren't to be taken at face value right from the start. Anyway, snake aside, the build-up was satisfying (if a bit typical), though the lack of landlines/cell phones was too convenient to ring (ha, I made a pun) true.Then the story started to get REALLY weird, which was OK, since it was what I had paid for. But while, supernaturally speaking, I can buy anything in a book world, I need to see a valid reason for its characters to act like they do. When Gowan came around, I was waiting for Silla to ask him the logical questions, and for him to volunteer the basic info about the world outside the manor, not to mention himself. I was screaming internally at the two of them to stop wallowing in misery and mystery and have a sensible conversation, for goodness sake. All while the things that didn't make sense (and again, I'm not talking about the alleged supernatural incidents) were piling up by the minute. I was still enjoying the horror and mystery factor, but the no-power couple was frustrating me to no end. Until...


...I reached the last section of the book, and the grand reveal - and things started to make sense. Sort of.
By then, I had already concocted, if not an explanation, at least a scenery - thanks to the words in bold interspersed in Silla's diary, and the sentences they formed. Nevertheless, there were inconsistencies ultimately that a good beta-reader should have caught, and even in the light of the reveal, the love story made little sense (see the Spoiler section below if you like). But the main issue I had with TCM is, it isn't a self-sustained novel until you reach the epilogue. I'm not questioning the mystery and the weirdness per se, of course - just the fact that they seem to be built on a void. It's like the ending (or the premise) is the only thing that matters, so the whole build-up doesn't need to have an inner logic - just to be scary and enigmatic.
You're probably wondering why I decided to rate TCM 3 stars at this point. The fact is, I did like the idea (though the execution not so much) and the deliciously (?) disturbing imagery (snake aside), and it took a while for me to figure out half of what was really happening (or had already happened). Also, I've read much worse books. I still have hope for Dawn Kurtagich's future novels, since The Dead House was a brilliant debut (though if I didn't know better, I would think that TCM were her real debut book). I do believe she only needs better beta-readers, AND proof-readers (I was able to spot a few typos...and this is a traditionally published book!). So, to this date, the jury about the author is still out 😉.



Now, a few more things I need to take off my chest, in order from small to huge:
  1. How can Silla (or even Auth Cath, for that matter) be familiar with Clara Bow - an actress who died in 1965, and who was only active and famous in the '20s?!? I barely know she existed, and I'm 51...All the more reason for me to think that originally the book was set in a different era, and maybe referenced World War Two...(see point 6).
  2. Aunt Cath lives in a collapsing manor, but goes to the trouble of ordering jamòn serrano from Spain (via a grocery store, I suppose, since she doesn't have a phone, not to mention an internet access).
  3. In the end, while recounting the whole story, Gowan says: "Things were really good for three years, until Silla was seventeen". But the birthday cake incident after which Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic happens when Silla turns fifteen - ONE year after she and Nori arrived at the manor. Why would she lie to herself about that? On the other hand, seventeen makes sense, since she couldn't have lived with Aunt Cath's rotting corpse for TWO YEARS - and for many other reasons. So, this is simply an inconsistency to me...
  4. Gowan also says: "You all repeated the terrible cycle of the last month of your lives in that house, over and over", but as a matter of fact, at this point it's clear that the loop always starts in London, with Silla and Nori's escape...
  5. So [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER - don't read this part if you avoid a crucial piece of information...I'm not using the spoiler tag again because I'm afraid to break this post for good LOL] ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Gowan dies at 92, and meets a 17 y.o. Silla again in the afterlife...Are dead people ageless? Do they sort of forget their whole life and find themselves leveled with their dearly departed? Or do old people become young again when meeting their prematurely deceased soul mates in the afterlife? which is SO CONVENIENT of course...(BTW, this reminds me of the Medium TV series' finale...)
  6. A story like this would have worked MUCH BETTER in the past, like, late 19th century or early 20th. The whole "cursed"-collapsing-and-isolated-manor/characters-cut-out-from-the-rest-of-the-world/no-technology-whatsoever vibe is totally out of place in the modern world. It almost feels like the author originally WANTED to tell a dated story, and the definitive time frame she imposed on it was an afterthought...

For more books that defy categories click here.
(Of course this book should be shelved in a more specific Room, but that in itself would be a giant spoiler...).

Original cover art for The Creeper Man (via Dawn Kurtagich's Twitter) and US edition cover


  1. Not my kind of book anyway but after reading your spoilers, I can see what your issues were.

    Unreliable narrators and big twists are super tricky for me. I've read a few that I enjoy but mostly I just feel manipulated until the big reveal or - as it seems in this case - that the story is just filler until the cool ending, which isn't enough to make up for being lost for that many pages/hours.

    Sorry you didn't enjoy this more but maybe this was a blip since you've enjoyed her work in the past.

    For What It's Worth

    1. I usually enjoy unreliable narrators (though I see your point). Well, I stay away from amnesia girls, since that trope got SO old - but unreliable as a whole intrigues me. It's just that too many things here (well, mainly the characters' interactions) didn't make sense until they did, if you know what I mean. To me, this kind of stories should have you guess and think you've figured out what goes on and end up wrong, not yell at the pages in frustration LOL.

  2. As you know, I agree with SO MUCH of your review. This could have been a really intriguing and complex book, but it was kind of just... all over the place. And now - SPOILERS FROM HERE! Honestly, it would have been SO MUCH MORE realistic to have WWII as the setting. It would have made more sense for them to be so secluded at that time, not to mention that throughout the whole novel it had such a historical feel to it. Great review! :)

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques


      Yep - it does feel like the author was going for that time frame, and then changed her mind for apparently no reason. Maybe the publisher didn't want a historical YA? We'll never know. Anyway, that alone would have made a HUGE difference.

      Thank you hon!

  3. This doesn't honestly sound like my type of read but that cover had me intrigued for a loooong time- until Vera disliked it, that is, and now your review makes me quite skeptical. It's a pity it didn't live up to its full potential, but the creepy aspect sounds like a definite plus (except for whatever is in that snake scene because I remember that from some other review too!)! Loved the review, Roby- very balanced, as always!

    1. The horror/creepy aspect is done well, I think - but since that isn't your cup of tea, I wouldn't recommend this book to you (and Vera beat me to it anyway LOL).

      No one told me my reviews are "balanced" before - thank you! I definitely love the sound of it 😊.

    2. Seriously, though, yours are some of the most "balanced" reviews I've ever read. You always put so much thought into them and cover every aspect regarding the book and I really, really admire your patience and hard work! xx

    3. 😅😊😘


Welcome to Offbeat YA! I love hearing from you and always - I mean always - acknowledge your comments. This used to be a full democracy place, because anyone could comment, regardless of being a registered member of any community. Unfortunately, I had to turn off the Anonymous comment option, because I was getting too much spam that didn't get filtered. So, you’ll need to have a Google account (Gmail will suffice) in order to comment. Sorry about that. Anyway, jump right in! Come on, you know you want to...😉 And be sure to leave a link!
BTW...I don't care if a post is a million months old - you comment, I respond. And you make my day 😃.
Note: this is an award/tag free blog. Sorry I can't accept nominations due to lack of time.

As per the GDPR guidelines, here's the link to my Privacy Policy.