Book Review: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten
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: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 29, 2022)
Length: 336 pages
Author Information: Website
I first discovered Camilla Sten last year with The Lost Village and enjoyed it enough that I immediately pounced on the chance to read The Resting Place when I was offered a review copy. And wow, I liked it even better! What a twisted and atmospheric mind trip it was.
Our story follows Eleanor, a young woman who suffers from prosopagnosia, a rare disorder commonly known as “face blindness” which causes the inability to recognize faces. Whether she is interacting with someone she’s meeting for the first time or a loved one that she’s known for years, her brain prevents her from registering their facial features. Unfortunately, this meant Eleanor was unable to recognize her grandmother Vivianne’s killer after accidentally walking in on the murder as it was happening. She even came face to face with them as they were escaping the scene of the brutal crime—but it was no use. Eleanor was unable to give the police anything useful, or even tell them if the killer might be someone she knew.
In the wake of Vivianne’s death, however, our protagonist discovers her grandmother had left something behind for her, a sprawling estate nestled in the Swedish woods called Solhöga. Arriving there with her boyfriend Sebastian, Eleanor meets up with her aunt Veronika as well as the lawyer handling Vivianne’s will. In truth though, Eleanor has come to Solhöga for another reason. She wants to know where her grandmother grew up, hoping the old mansion would reveal its secrets and explain how Vivianne became the cold, hard woman who raised her. And, just maybe, it may even answer the question of why she was murdered.
The Resting Place was a slow-moving mystery, though that is merely an observation, not really a criticism. In fact, I tend to enjoy such stories, where the suspense gradually builds, and at times even veers off into horror territory. Part of the reason for the pacing can be explained by the novel’s structure, which splits into two timelines with chapters alternating between past and present. The present timeline follows Eleanor, while the one in the past takes place in the mid-sixties, told through the eyes of a young Polish girl named Annushka. Eleanor first learns of the enigmatic young woman’s existence when she chances upon an old diary while exploring the house. The entries within reveal that Annushka was a servant girl at Solhöga, and that even in her youth, Vivianne was a cruel mistress.
Chapter by chapter, the author peels back the layers concealing the truth behind the estate’s history, which was filled with grief, pain, and tragedy. Piece by piece, the puzzle slowly comes together to form a clearer picture, and Eleanor starts to gain a better understanding of why her grandmother might have wanted to keep this part of her past hidden from everyone. The mystery aspect of the story was done well, and like I’d alluded to before, sometimes the tensions would be cranked so high that they bordered on creepy and disturbing.
My only regret was not seeing prosopagnosia play a larger role in the story. This might sound strange, considering the opening scene with Vivianne’s murder and the fact that the whole mystery rested on Eleanor’s inability to recognize the killer. But other than serving its purpose for this one critical plot point, our protagonist’s condition was practically a non-issue, and she certainly didn’t feel convincing as a character who had suffered from it her entire life, at least not to me. To a lesser extent, I was also side-eyeing the ending, which felt a bit out of left field. But because the twist was so good, not to mention that some suspension of disbelief is to be expected for this genre, I didn’t let that bother me too much.
All in all, I was riveted by The Resting Place with its innumerable secrets and shiver-inducing moments. Stories set in creaky old houses are a perpetual favorite of mine, filled with dark corners and hidden nooks in which to hide, and Camilla Sten certainly took full advantage of the setting, creating an unforgettable atmospheric and suspenseful experience.