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House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson

House. Tree. Person.

by Catriona McPherson

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This is a hard book for me to rate. Up front I feel like it's important to include some potential trigger warnings that I wish I'd known before starting the book. I'll do it beneath a spoiler tag so you can choose whether you want to read them but the warnings certainly don't really impact the central mystery

TRIGGER WARNINGS big warning for pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and spousal abuse

Now that's done, the book overall was good. It kept my interested and guessing. The main character, Ali, is very likable, interesting, and real. Her voice is consistent throughout, her motivations are logical, her relationships are presented in a lot of detail, and you can understand why she makes the choices she does. I liked reading about her and I spent the book rooting for her to come through okay.

The plot is interesting but I feel like the pacing kind of negatively impacts the overall story. I felt that there was far too much buildup, far too many unnecessary distractions and digressions that diluted the overall mystery. The bones of the story (pun intended haha) are very good but I felt that it was rushed in some spots and it was dragged out in others. I feel like not enough time was spent establishing certain relationships and important characters were given very little space in the actual narrative.

Overall I did enjoy this book very much, I just wish the pacing had been more effective. ( )
  ElleGato | Sep 27, 2018 |
I found the title for House. Tree. Person to be very odd, but now after finishing the book do I understand the reference. It's actually a kind of clever kind of title and you have to read the book to figure out what it points to and what so important with it.

House. Tree. Person is a book that I felt did not really live up not my expectations. The mystery was in a way interesting, the book just lacked suspense and some really good twists. I did like this book, I found that I wanted to figure out what was wrong with Howell Hall, it was just that much of the twist was pretty obvious and it felt like I was one step ahead of Ali as she tried to figure out things like why was employed, who the dead person is that was found at the cemetery in a shallow grave.

Honestly, that Ali got the job, despite clearing not having any qualifications for it is the first hint that something is wrong. I knew that, she knew that. Then we have her husband and son her husband Marco is not really in the story that much, more like a figure in the background, but he is the one that found her the job, and he is also the reason they have financial problems which led to her taking the job. And, then we have their son, Angel, who is being questioned by the police after the body is found. Poor Ali has a lot to deal with.

House. Tree. Person was an interesting book. I just wish the story had been more intense and the ending more shocking.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 14, 2017 |
House. Tree. Person. is a new suspense novel by Catriona McPherson. Alison “Ali” McGovern along with her husband, Marco and son, Angel have just moved to small home after losing their dream home and their businesses. Their quiet life is disturbed when a body is found next door at Dundeennan Abbey. Angel spends quite a bit of his free time at the abbey and Ali wonders if he knows more than he is revealing. Marco is online and discovers an opening for a beauty therapist at the local high-end psychiatric facility, Howell Hall for Ali. With a doctored resume, Ali applies and gets the position. Ali has her patients draw her a picture containing a house, a tree, and a person. It is amazing what a simple picture can reveal about a person. She soon discovers that Howell Hall is full of secrets and danger. Who buried the body at the abbey? What is going on at Howell Hall? What happens when Ali gets too close to the truth?

House. Tree. Person sounded like such an intriguing suspense novel. However, I found it to be a slow-paced novel that is deciding lacking in suspense (I wanted to be gripping my book, riveted, quickly turning the pages to find out what happened next—instead I was sighing with boredom). The story plays out in an expected manner (no surprises or great twists). The first half of House. Tree. Person. plods along with slightly more action in the second half. Personally, I wish the story had not been written in the first person. Ali is an unlikeable character (whiny, dramatic) and her ramblings made the story even worse. I know what the author was trying to accomplish (make the story more intriguing and make readers assume things), but I was frustrated/displeased/annoyed/irritated. Ali overreacts to every single little thing. I can understand why her son spends so little time at home. To those of us who read mysteries like they are going out of style, you will figure out the guilty parties long before the reveal (foreseeable). I did have trouble with some of the word usage (Scottish slang words used by Angel, the son). Usually, I can discern the meaning from the context. I wish the publisher had provided a dictionary at the end of the book (or changed out the words for Americans). I do want to advise readers that there is foul language in this book. My rating for House. Tree. Person. is 2 out of 5 stars (I was not a fan). Parts of the story are just unrealistic (this is not science fiction). Ali gets a job she is underqualified for and passes a background check that she knows she cannot pass. Didn’t she wonder how this was accomplished? The characters lacked depth/development. I thought they were flat. I did not feel this novel was up to Catriona McPherson’s usual standards. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Oct 3, 2017 |
While you could categorize this book as a psychological thriller, it was also very different. For one, there was no investigating detective or police. The story was told from the POV of Ali McGovern, a mother who just started a new job at a private psychiatric facility. A body is found in the ruins right next to her door and her son might be involved somehow. Ali also makes some strange observations at her new work place which raise her suspicion and make her investigate things on her own. Supported by her co-workers, Ali is determined to get to the bottom of it and find out what's wrong with the facility, it's weird patients and her even weirder acting new boss. On her way, Ali also must face a tragic incident from her past and come to terms with her own inner demons.

I loved the unpredictability of the plot and the way the author fooled me more than once. My favorite character was Ali's co-worker Lars with his no-nonsense attitude and complete loyalty, as well as the provocative Julia with her regular outbreaks and silent Sylvie, who was the complete opposite.

I was also fascinated by the explanation of the book title, which is based on a psychological test where you are supposed to draw a house, a tree and a person. Despite her lack of professional psychological knowledge Ali uses this test with several persons with very interesting results.

This was the second novel by the author that I've read and it won't be my last.

(Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book, all opinions are my own) ( )
  misspider | Sep 13, 2017 |
I was trying to figure out why this author and her standalones appeal to me so much. They are not action filled, nor are there any graphic, blood laden scenes, they are instead insidiously dark, ominous. They are different, unique, and the settings always a bit creepy. Here it is mostly set in a private, psychiatrist facility which was once someone's family home. She always does such a great job with her characters, giving the reader one or more to cheer for, in this case two young residents of the facility, and Ali, a married woman with one son, who had in the past suffered a tragic loss and subsequent breakdown. Using an exaggerated resume she is hired to provide beauty and relaxation treatments at the facility.

Unreliable narrator, or suffering a further breakdown, this is what the reader needs to decide. The beginning is very muddled, as if mimicing the emotional state of Ali as she finds things about the facility to question. To further confuse the situation a dead body is found not far from her home and her son seems to be involved in some manner or other. A true psychological novel, clues are strewn here and there, secrets revealed when the author decides they will be, and the denoument is satisfying.

McPherson has total control of her psychological unveilings, I feel confident reading this author because I feel she is a confident writer, knows exactly where she is going and how to get there.. She slowly draws the reader in, and in my opinion, doesn't let them go.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Aug 30, 2017 |
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This is for Terri Bischoff, with love and thanks.
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The anger was long gone, doused in vodka and tamped down to a sour thud. (Prologue)
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The Weight of Angels (UK) / House. Tree. Person. (US)
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The body found in a muddy grave across the street is just the latest horror threatening to tear Ali McGovern's life apart seam by seam. She knows Angelo, her brooding teenage son, is keeping secrets. She fears he's in danger, too. But her new job at the psychiatric hospital, the job her husband pushed her into, is using up everything she's got every day. She can try to ignore the sounds that surely can't really be there. And she can try to trust the doctors, who can't be as dark as they seem. But can Ali hold herself, her life, and her family together without getting blood on her hands?… (more)

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