Dellwood is a horror story that starts very quietly but builds up to a heart-racing ending. It tells the story of Constance Tierney who had a horrible childhood she barely survived. Literally. Had it not been for the intervention of her grandaunt, she would have never grown to be a super wealthy, top mathematician. The story is complex, relying heavily on the backstory and three generations of the Tierney Family Tree, and incredibly well weaved. With mysteries is easy for the author to get lost in the excitement of revealing all to the reader too soon, or being way too cryptic. Ginny Gilroy manages to unveil the darkest secrets with a dropper, making the thirsty reader beg for more.
The first chapter is kind of slow and only hints at the secretive nature of the book, by the end of it I wasn't even sure Dellwood was truly a horror. Then came chapter two and all doubts dissipated. I found this chapter to be the one where Gilroy truly shines. The narrative is rich, there is so much tension in the air, and the mystery is palpable. My heart actually raced, which doesn't happen very frequently, and I knew I was hooked.
The book is narrated by an omnipresent narrator, like most books, but it changes to first person whenever someone has a flashback or the story turns to what happened in the past. These changes are confusing at times and during some of them the point of view is inconsistent. The backstory, however, is fascinating. Dellwood is ultimately a haunted house story where the ghosts of both, victims and victimizers, are trapped until a definitive act takes place. I kept jumping through the pages trying to find out more about those forgotten years and the way Gilroy intertwines the tidbits of information with the present situation of the characters is nothing short of brilliant.
Being a closet psychologist, I appreciated the lengths the author went to make the characters consistent with their personal baggages, something very few authors take the time to think about. Though the main character is clearly traumatized by the experiences she can't remember, the reader doesn't feel annoyed by her. Most of the characters are likable but not perfect and we feel the strong bond between them. I think, however, that the minor characters are treated more like pawns in a chess match and they felt a bit one dimensional; also the ending was not all that satisfactory for me.
I understand why Gilroy decided to make the final confrontation end the way it did, and from a metaphorical point of view it makes total sense, but from an entertainment point of view, I would've liked something grander. The final chapter is a sort of 'after the storm' narrative where we get to know what's happened with the characters after a few months. In my opinion this last epilogue of sorts adds nothing to the story and characters, and it doesn't present the reader with a nice bow at the end. I tend to like better stories that don't end with neatly tied bows, except when it feels like it. Since the previous chapter had concluded with a good sense of coming to a full circle, I don't think anything else was needed.
All in all, I can't say enough good things about Dellwood. It is a well-tought, character-driven, showstopper you can't miss. Expect much more from Ginny Gilroy, I'm a new fan.