Author: Ben H. Winters
Format: Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (September 6, 2011)
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Cover and description:
Alex and Susan Wendt are the perfect couple in search of the perfect brownstone-and they find their dream house in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric, and the handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the previous tenants. But the rent is so low, it's too good to pass up!
Big mistake: Susan soon discovers that the brownstone is crawling with bedbugs . . . Or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. Exterminators search the property and turn up nothing. Neighbors insist the building is clean. Susan fears that she's going mad-but as the mysteries deepen, a more sinister explanation presents itself: She may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from hell.
An understated horror story filled with loving references to Rosemary's Baby and other classic tales of urban paranoia, Bedbugs will keep your skin crawling into the wee hours of the night.
I opened Ben H. Winters newest novel, Bedbugs, with a great deal of trepidation. I live not so far from New York City (NYC). I've been hearing about the bedbug 'problem' there for a while. I generally don't stay overnight in NYC despite the assurances that New York hotels post that they are bedbug free. All it takes is one bedbug hitchhiker on my suitcase or in my clothes and I could end up with an infestation. No one wants that. Not me, not the Wendts of the novel.
Bedbugs is the story of Susan and Alex Wendt and their new apartment. Susan is the main character. She's a would-be artist and is just the tiniest bit paranoid. She looks for meanings behind things that may or may not be there. Her husband, Alex, is a nice guy who is somewhat distracted by his business. They have a daughter Emma. They are a happy couple. They move from a cramped apartment to a 2 floor apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. The rent is affordable. It's almost too good to be true. Cue creepy music!
Is Susan being attacked by bedbugs, is she crazy or is it something else altogether? Alex clearly loves his wife and wants the best for her, but with the distractions of work he's not always there for her. This only serves to feed her growing paranoia. While reading, I felt, like Susan, that something was going terribly wrong. But while I had an inkling of what it might be, I did not guess what was going to happen.
Bedbugs is fast moving story that slowly ratchets up the tension and fear. This is subtle horror to a point. As we get to the end of the story and things become clear, the subtleties drop away. I really enjoyed the writing. While far from sparse, the story is told as compactly as possible. There are no excesses to bog things down. Bedbugs reaches a satisfying conclusion, but I feel that the end came with a question mark for Susan. Is this truly over? Bedbugs may make you want to boil your sheets and clothes, but it's a book you will not be able to put down.
I give Bedbugs 4 Qwills.