The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

I bought this from Amazon without noticing it's actually a Kindle Single, a shorter work released by Amazon for a reduced price. That means The Grownup is really more of an extended short story than a book in its own right, as at 97 pages in the Kindle edition (and fewer in paperback) it's barely long enough to qualify even as a novella. It is, however, a good one-sitting read.

The Grownup's narrator is a sex worker who has branched out into giving psychic readings. She doesn't believe in psychic abilities or the supernatural, but her troubled childhood and criminal past amount to a lifetime of observing other people and using what she learns to manipulate and dupe them, so she's able to well as a clairvoyant.

One day, she gives a reading for Susan, the second wife of a well-off man and stepmother to his teenage son  Miles, whose disturbing behaviour Susan is convinced is caused by dark forces present in the family's Victorian mansion. The narrator opportunistically offers to perform a spiritual cleansing of the property - for a reasonable sum. But when she starts to spend time at the house, she begins to wonder if something sinister really is going on after all.

Those who liked Gillian Flynn's smash hit thriller Gone Girl will enjoy seeing some of its hallmarks stamped on this story too - an unreliable and frequently unlikeable narrator, not a single character we can trust, and themes of bitterness and revenge. There's also a slightly heightened reality about this story that reminds me somewhat of the work of Chuck Palahniuk - don't turn to this story (or indeed to Gone Girl) if you're looking for grounded realism.

Overall, I found this a fun read - it's dark, witty and smart. I didn't, however, feel the tension really built as it should have done when it came to the haunted house element of the plot. For the rest of the story to work, we need to feel a sense of fear and unease that just wasn't really evoked. Certainly worth the short time it takes to read it, though.