"Ward Zero" Linda Huber
Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?
On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.
Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.
If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.
.....The Dead Ward...... What a subtitle! And what a cover!
I am a big fan of Huber's books having read three of her previous titles and really enjoyed them all. In my opinion, she can be relied upon for a psychological thriller that will unsettle and haunt you even after you've long finished it. Her characters are always deliciously unhinged, vivid creations. Her chilling stories are not far fetched, not beyond the realms of reality, not gratuitously gory or offensive- just solid, reliable, satisfying "does what it says on the label" psychological thrillers and I will always be excited to read anything she publishes.
Therefore when I saw a sneak preview of this dark, disturbing cover for her latest novel "Ward Zero" on Twitter, I was very keen to read it!
The book opens with an anonymous male voice; predatory, menacing and clearly threatening to any of the other characters. By the end of the first page we read that:
"Once he had her safely locked up he could organise her death in peace and quiet. It shouldn't be too difficult, he'd already had a practice run."
This opening reminded me of John Fowles "The Collector" and "You" by Caroline Kepnes. Automatically, the insinuations and implications from the character have us fearing for the worse. Huber has immediately established suspense, tension and interest. There is also much intrigue from one of the final lines of the prologue where we hear his thought that "when Sarah was gone too, he'd be safe". I dare you not to want to read on!
We then move to follow one of the protagonists Sarah as she goes to hospital to visit her foster mother, Mim. As we already know someone is out to harm Sarah, Huber sets a fast tempo to her writing, pulling us straight into the story. A hospital is a great place to set a thriller as the suggestion of tragedy, death, illness and sadness seep into the reader's mind almost before Huber has a chance to start her first sentence. Then, Sarah's likening of the hospital to 'Colditz',calling it a "compound", her "plummeting" mood alongside references to panic, wailing sirens, pounding and hysterics continues to effectively establish a tense setting and atmosphere. When Sarah bumps into Jack, a childhood acquaintance, their conversation conveniently exposes sad and possibly traumatic pasts from both characters. More seeds sown for future twists, turns and dramatic climaxes!
There is a huge cast of characters in "Ward Zero". By the end of the first chapter we have met about four or five characters and then the following chapter starts with yet another. They are all interlinked and their stories woven together, with the mysterious anonymous voice from the prologue also interjected amongst the running storyline to maximise intrigue and tension.
At first I was concerned that I would find it a little hard to keep track of so many people, how they were connected and the timeline. I think, if my memory serves me right, some of Huber's previous novels focus on a smaller group of people, making the plot more intense and claustrophobic. However, I should never doubt her skill as a writer!
Huber manages the characters, the story arc and the denouements with accomplished control. Her language and writing style is so fluid, so accessible and so straight forward that the reader flies through the pages at quite a pace. I actually enjoyed the range of characters and the level of dialogue as I felt it made the story more compulsive. To me, this felt a little different from Huber's previous novels, but as enjoyable and successful.
I'm not saying any more or I will end up revealing something or saying too much! I was amazed how quickly I read this and how the pages almost turned themselves as the story rattles along. The front cover is very different from Huber's usual style and this is a slightly more dark and murderous novel than some of her others, but Huber's style remains assured and confident. This is a great weekend read or one for any winter evening!
Once again, Huber has come up with a great premise, unsettling characters and a very enjoyable, engaging and satisfying read. If you enjoy Samantha Hayes, Elizabeth Haynes and any other contemporary psychological thriller writers, you should definitely add "Ward Zero" to your reading pile!
Thank you so much to Linda Huber for sending me an advanced copy of this novel in return for an unbiased review. I was thrilled to accept a copy and this is my honest review.
"Ward Zero" is available to preorder now on Amazon and will be published on October 1st 2016.
For my reviews of Linda's novels "Cold, Cold Sea", "The Attic Room" and "Chosen Child" please click on the following links:
More about Linda Huber:
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, where she trained as a physiotherapist. She spent ten years working with neurological patients, firstly in Glasgow and then in Switzerland. During this time she learned that different people have different ways of dealing with stressful events in their lives, and this knowledge still helps her today, in her writing.
Linda now lives in Switzerland, where she works as a language teacher in a little town on the banks of beautiful Lake Constance.
Her debut novel The Paradise Trees was published in 2013 and was followed by The Cold Cold Sea in 2014 and The Attic Room in 2015. she has also had over 50 short stories and articles published in magazines.
You can follow Linda on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or via her website - which includes a great blog!
If you would like to read more reviews and recommendations, please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)