Review: Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Simms

‘The once impressive building now stands silent, casting a lonely eye over the dilapidated buildings below. A thirteen-storey tombstone to a man whose shadow still falls as darkly as that of his creation.’

Hello everyone, I’m back. Sudden but short hiatus this time on the blog front but everything is thankfully fine. I had some medical stuff that happened quite suddenly (covid rescheduling) and during that time off from work, I got to read a lot of books! Finally finishing one of my most anticipated books of the year and I’m so thrilled to say it did not disappoint!

You’re cordially invited to dinner. Penthouse access is available via the broken freight elevator. Black tie optional.

A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building. None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building’s walls.

By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests ever said what happened. His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now.

But are you ready for their stories?

I’ve made no secret of being a fan of The Magnus Archives before. Especially on Twitter where I have declared my latest heartbreak at Simms and Alexander J. Newall’s doors. Despite my familiarity with his writing and the tropes he uses, I found this book to be one of the most original I have read from the horror genre in a long time.

The way the story is structured around Banyan Court, the building, the people and the unusual activity of the two is done perfectly. See there are two sides to Banyan Court, one is the luxury apartments for the ‘elite’, high earners while it’s more dilapidated twin across from it, houses those paid the lowest just trying to get by. The story crosses between residents of both buildings, all the while slowly connecting the stories of each with minute details, all leading to the eponymous dinner party they are all invited to. The mastery of connecting all these separate incidents while maintaining a genuine sense of dread is the true testament to the writing.

How the characters are painted in each story is even more masterful somehow. Twelve people’s stories all take place from that characters point of view and each voice is very distinct. I am totally going to go back and reread this on audio at some stage next year because I am really interested to hear the voices for each character! In print or audio, these characters are all distinct, they feel real and it’s so hard not to be as scared as they are.

There is this constant feeling of dread, and something creeping in the background that just won’t leave and it’s so thrilling. That constant fear of something around the corner feeds into one of the main themes very well. Each side of Banyan Court has residents with very real fears that are so realistic, it almost reinforces the supernatural. One of the stories is about a woman working a night job, barely managing to scrape her living together. Her mindset being that her constant working makes her better than her colleagues. Being that person at one stage myself, I can see how desperation to keep yourself ahead can convince you that you’re the good employee. Another, a man taking over a good job on paper, setting up in a home with his partner, only to be caught in a PR nightmare that a large conglomerate company that needs someone as a face for their disasters. All the time, a stain in his apartment is getting the better of him and if he could just get it under control, everything would fall into place.

The way Simms approaches everything in this book is practically flawless in execution, the distinct voices and inventive structure being the main winners here. The only minimal let down was the ending. We do of course get to the reveal and why these characters are all invited to this recluses home. The ending wrapped up a little too swiftly and I can see how hard it might have been to wrap this sprawling tale of contemporary horror and this was still handled very well but the pacing was a little jarring.

I still think this is one of the best debuts I have read and definitely one of the best books of the year. I felt genuinely horrified in a lot of sections of this book (see stain story and one about insomnia) but only for how relevant it was. A lot of these situations have frightening repercussions and that is the real champion here. Thank you to both Gollancz and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.Thanks for checking in guys, happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne says:

    Been on my radar for a while, glad you loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good Yvonne! So interesting!

      Like

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