THIRTEEN STOREYS by Jonathan Sims (BOOK REVIEW)
Thirteen Storeys is the debut release by Award-winning The Magnus Archives podcaster, Jonathan Sims. Part horror, part thriller and part paranormal, this is a deliciously dark twisted tale where you will enter a haunted house quite like no other.
Our story is set in Banyan Court – a thirteen storey residential development built in London and owned by the infamous billionaire entrepreneur, Tobias Fell. Banyan Court was built to accommodate both rich and poor residents, with the apartments being divided into two distinct sides. Consequently the residents range from living privileged lives of complete luxury to the deprived who are working all hours to make ends meet. Throughout this novel we explore the lives of thirteen characters, some of which are said residents and some who are working at Banyan Court. Yet these are no ordinary people and they each have a chilling story to tell – stories which always end with them receiving a mysterious invitation to a dinner party with their host, Tobias Fell, a man riddled with dark secrets.
From the very first page of this novel we are told that the dinner party in question goes direly wrong and despite there being thirteen witnesses, the events of that fateful night remain a high profile mystery. That is, however, until we pick up this book and uncover the hair-raising truth for ourselves. If, like me, you have a hankering for an unsettling atmospheric read, then I’d strongly suggest reading this book on a gloomy dark evening or two, a blanket wrapped around you, and a hot drink at hand, because it’ll perfectly set the scene.
This is a hard book to review because if I wrote in any more detail about each character’s narratives, I fear it would spoil a lot of what makes this a cleverly written horror. Sims has a fantastic way of building up each individual character, of illustrating their backgrounds, the things which make them tick, and then contrasts this by showing us how they each significantly change. Is Banyan Court haunting them? Are they visited by paranormal apparitions, or are they actually descending into insanity? We are continually left with questions which compel us to discover more, and I loved becoming immersed.
‘The spaces in this place aren’t only travelled by your feet. There are directions you cannot follow on a compass. Listen in the dark and follow the music.’
I would say that most of the characters are not overly likeable – each display varied degrees of selfishness, greed, or cynicism. I had my favourites who were less immoral, such as Caroline, a ghost hunter, and Damien who was also investigating unusual incidents surrounding Banyan Court. However, for many of the characters I felt a small satisfaction in watching their lives drastically unravel. I can have a dark sense of humour at times and I honestly found it entertaining to witness each character’s greatest loves become their greatest fears, and to see them become a dishevelled mess by the end of their chapters! I believe this in part was Sims’ intention, I feel the book often relayed the message ‘you get what you give!’
My only slight gripe was there were perhaps too many characters to keep track of. You see, all of them are connected in one way or another, and they are all most certainly connected to Tobias Fell. I’m in the habit of keeping notes whilst reading, so I could always refer back to those if I forgot any of the details. Yet most readers won’t want to do that, which is why I suggest reading this in one or two sittings because a lot of the finer points you may dismiss early on actually become relevant later. Sims really has created an innovative novel where everything falls into place within its thrilling climax.
It takes a lot to make me feel creeped out, but I have to give Sims credit here because a few of the stories actually managed to have me on edge. I think this lies in the way Sims’ writing is visually cinematic, and also unsettling because he writes about events which could very well be mental breakdowns rather than anything paranormal. Psychological paranoia and real-life terror is far more frightening to me than the idea of ghosts or demons, and as we are never sure which it is or what is real, I was left feeling apprehensive.
‘The once impressive building now stands silent, casting a lonely eye over the dilapidated buildings below. A thirteen-storey tombstone to a man whose shadow still falls as darkly as that of his creation.’
Within Thirteen Storeys, you will find tales of hauntings, spiralling obsessions, paranoia and underneath it all, of tragedies long buried, and by the end you will surely learn that the forgotten will be forgotten no more.
Thirteen Storeys is out November 26th but you can preorder a copy here.
ARC provided by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Thank you for the copy!