Title: The Comfort of Monsters
Author: Willa C. Richards
Publisher: Point Blank
Publication Date: 13th January 2022
In the summer of 1991, teen Dee McBride vanished in the city of Milwaukee. It was the summer the Journal Sentinel dubbed ‘the deadliest . . . in the history of Milwaukee.’ Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s heinous crimes dominated the headlines and the disappearance of one girl was easily overlooked.
2019, nearly thirty years later, Dee’s sister, Peg, is still haunted by her disappearance. Desperate to find out what happened to her, the family hire a psychic and Peg is plunged back into the past. But Peg’s hazy recollections are far from easy to interpret and digging deep into her memory raises terrifying questions. How much trust can we place in our own recollections? How often are our memories altered by the very act of speaking them aloud? And what does it mean to bear witness in a world where even our own stories about what happened are inherently suspect?
I love reading true crime, so it was actually the inclusion of the Jeffrey Dahmer case that caught my attention with this book – which is fiction. The story follows two timelines: the summer of 1991 where teenager Dee goes missing amidst the horrifying Dahmer crimes, and 2019, where Dee’s elder sister, Peg, is still haunted and totally consumed by her sister’s disappearance some thirty years earlier. In 2019 Peg’s very old and unwell mother hires a psychic to locate Dee’s body and it is this which forces Peg to face her own recollections and how far she can really trust them.
The Comfort of Monsters, in my view, is one of those marmite books. I think there will be people who love it and people who really don’t. I fall into the former category. It is not an action-filled thriller, rather it is an in depth character study and commentary on how crime, and specifically disappearances, have a domino effect and far reaching consequences for anyone connected to the victim. There is a bleakness to this book which I felt strongly throughout – a kind of uneasy and desperately sad feeling that I felt leaked off the page and into my consciousness. The main characters and the central relationship is very much the one between Dee and Peg, and whilst neither are overwhelmingly likeable, I found them deeply fascinating. I loved the spectre of the Jeffrey Dahmer case looming over the 1991 narrative and I also love the book’s title and meaning. The Comfort of Monsters is a dark, melancholic, intense and thought provoking book which I would definitely recommend if the slow burn and introspective aspects of it appeal to you.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this tour and organising it. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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