#SpooktasticReads Audiobook Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Audio (September 29, 2020)
Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
The Nesting by C.J. Cooke definitely earns its label of Gothic suspense, though I have to say it’s a different and interesting take on the subgenre. To be sure, what I enjoyed most about the book was its atmosphere, thick and heavy with intrigue. When it comes to reader engagement and thrills though, the story might have stumbled a little due to lack of cogency and uneven pacing.
Much of this novel takes place in the Norwegian wildnerness, but it does begin in London, where our protagonist Lexi Ellis finds herself adrift after a failed suicide attempt leaves her without any support. Her boyfriend has left her, and she’s also lost her job and her home, but one day, an opportunity presents itself as she overhears a conversation between two strangers on the train. One of the women, named Sophie, had been offered a nanny position but tells her friend she that she is unlikely to take it. An aspiring writer, Lexi is immediately intrigued upon learning the job is in Norway, which just happens to be the setting of the novel she’s working on. Inspired and emboldened, she uses Sophie’s identity and credentials to track down the employer and applies to be their nanny.
With her new stolen identity, Lexi—now Sophie—is hired by Tom Faraday, a recently widowed architect who needs someone to help care for his two young daughters. The family is currently living in a remote part of Norway, where Tom is trying to finish building a high-concept, environmentally-friendly house in honor of his late wife, Aurelia. Initially terrified that she is going to get found out, Lexi finds herself adjusting surprisingly well to her new role thanks to the charming Faraday children, Gaia and Coco. Soon, however, strange things begin to happen—and Gaia tells Lexi about her chilling visions of a sad lady she sometimes sees around the house. And then, there is the diary. Mysteriously appearing in Lexi’s room one day, it appears to have belonged to Aurelia. Everyone knows that her death had been a suicide, but the more Lexi reads from the diary, the more she wonders what Aurelia had been up to in the weeks before her death, and whether she had really taken her own life.
What we have here is all the hallmarks of an effective Gothic tale, but on the flip side, I am quite sad to say I found it weak as a psychological mystery/thriller—and bear in mind, this was how the book was pitched. What this means is, if you enjoy claustrophobic settings or the creeping nature of doubt and paranoia, then I think you will enjoy The Nesting, but on the other hand, those hoping for a more impactful and engaging tale might find themselves disappointed.
We’ll begin with the aspects I thought were strong, and first and foremost was the atmosphere. Setting the story in the Norwegian hinterlands was a stroke of genius. There’s just something about this environment that makes it both amazing and terrifying in its beauty, in turn making the novel’s themes of humanity vs. Mother Nature all the more poignant. And then we have the characters, starting with Lexi, who is a shadow of her old self when we first meet her. Gradually, we see the Faraday girls draw out the stronger and more confident side of her personality as well as her protective instincts as she strives to make sense of the strange happenings around her. Next, we have Tom’s point-of-view interspersed with Aurelia’s told in flashback, helping readers better understand the profundity of their decision to construct a dream home by the banks of a pristine fjord. A paranormal element is also present, which is good news for readers who enjoy a touch of nature-based folklore and mythology.
As for criticisms though, I had some major problems with the plot and pacing. The coincidences at the beginning, for example, were so absurd that I had feared not being able to take the rest of the story seriously. Granted, it was a fascinating setup, but the circumstances behind the way Lexi lands her job were simply too outlandish to be convincing. Then there were the plodding sections in the middle where the pacing dragged, and when the author tried to alleviate this problem with the use of time skips, the awkward execution only served to make things worse. Coupled with frequent flashbacks, the entire timeline of the story’s events became rather fuzzy for me.
So, to conclude, there are some high points in The Nesting, including a few genuine moments of pure creepiness, but on the whole, the weaknesses in the storytelling dampened a lot of my enthusiasm. Read this if you’re into the atmosphere and mood of a Gothic novel, or if you’re interested in the specific setting. But if you’re looking for a more traditional psychological suspense thriller, this might not be enough to satisfy.