“No one told me that grief would feel so much like fear.”
Looking Glass Sound is Catriona Ward’s deeply unsettling literary horror that will lure readers in with its charming coming-of-age façade but leave them entangled in a web of metaphysical dread. From the retro cover design to its late 1980s northern Gothic setting, Looking Glass Sound is dripping with nostalgia for a simpler time that may never have existed.
As the novel opens, we read the unpublished memoir of Wilder Harlow, a sixteen-year-old boy whose uncle has died and left his parents a cottage on the Maine coast. Wilder soon meets two friends, also with author-inspired names: a handsome boy named Nathaniel and a redheaded British girl, Harper. The trio form a closeknit bond during their magical summer together and promise to return each year.
But the rural New England town is also home to a serial killer known as the Dagger Man of Whistler Bay. As if that weren’t creepy enough, the Dagger Man also takes threatening Polaroid photos of children as they sleep. Wilder’s summer becomes inexorably linked to the story of the Dagger Man, as illusory friendships are shattered and his parents’ troubled marriage hurls toward inevitable divorce.
Wilder is left broken and alone as he begins collegiate life, unable to cope with the psychological trauma of his summer at Whistler Bay. Enter the overly friendly Sky Montague, a Proust-obsessed aspiring author who insists on becoming roommates with Wilder. But is Sky truly the altruistic friend that he seems, or is he just pumping Wilder for information about the Whistler Bay murders?
A plot involving a serial killer in rural Maine is disturbing but, let’s be honest, standard fare for a Stephen King-inspired horror novel. However, the Dagger Man story is just a façade covering the true horrors that await in the second half of Looking Glass Sound.
The psychological horror deepens as Catriona Ward weaves layers upon layers of uncertainty to the story. The lines between reality and fiction slowly blur as Wilder descends deeper into existential crisis, making the reader question everything they believed.
Much more than a standard horror novel, Looking Glass Sound is Catriona Ward’s ode to the power of the written word. The reader becomes entranced by her prose and entangled in her circular narrative of metaphysical horror. Put simply, Looking Glass Sound is a multilayered masterpiece of speculative fiction and proof that a horror novel can reach the greatest of literary heights.