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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

In Darkness, Shadows Breathe, Catherine Cavendish: A Review

Twitter can be a cesspool, but I'm so grateful to have found the horror community. I've found some amazing authors because of insightful, passionate reviewers who love the genre as much as I do, and I'm adding Catherine Cavendish to my list of must-reads.

Carol is on contract to house-sit for six months when things in the flat become weird. She hears voices, items seemingly move on their own, and she begins having moments where she loses chunks of time, envisioning an ominous hospital from the Victorian Era. This can't be real, she tells herself, until a series of events makes her question everything she knows about time and reality. Simultaneously, Vanessa is in the hospital recovering from a brutal cancer treatment when she, too, begins hearing threatening voices, seeing Victorian women and the old Waverly hospital where deranged doctors did horrible things to the female patients. They are connected, and before the ghosts of the past alter the barriers of time, they have to figure out how and why. I really enjoyed this book. There were some truly creepy moments here made more disturbing by Cavendish's excellent command of imagery and storytelling. I love a good asylum narrative. Old hospitals have so much potential to be terrifying in their tales, and Cavendish's spin on it was well executed and thrilling. My favorite parts were the moments just before the scare reveal, where the characters sense a presence but don't know yet what is happening. I found myself holding my breath, too, eager to see what was coming but also super wary of what horrible thing would pop up next. I also found it refreshing to see the narrative focus around a cancer patient. Approaching illnesses in a meaningful way can be difficult. It's a sensitive subject for many people. There's apprehension about acknowledging when people are sick for any number of reasons. Cavendish even addresses this as her characters discuss the function of humor. I want more of these honest conversations: the real side of treatment and what it entails for the patient and their loved ones. Cavendish gives us Vanessa, a strong, determined woman who has no certainty about her future but isn't drawn in a sympathetic, this-is-all-I-am light. She's not just a cancer patient. She is a woman battling for her life, her (maybe) past lives, and dealing with her recovery. Overall, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe is an eerie supernatural tale about possession, persecution, and perseverance. Highly entertaining and thoroughly riveting, I'd recommend to anyone who's not afraid of a few malevolent spirits and, perhaps, doesn't mean sleeping with the lights on. Big thanks to Flame Tree and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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