A book review by Janine Pipe
Every so often, I discover a new voice and immediately fall in love with their style. This is what happened when I read The Switch House (2018) by Tim Meyer last year.
The plot plays on the popularity of reality TV and addresses every parent’s worst nightmare: losing a child. What Tim does expertly with this much-used trope is keeping the details to a bare minimum, only revealing important pieces when it’s absolutely necessary, building intrigue and tension as the story progresses. This is not to suggest that the prose is chaotic, only that you will be kept guessing through a plethora of twists and turns often right up until the last page.
Our main characters, Angela and Terry, are a married couple with a tragic history, who participate in a TV show in which they swap houses for a short time with a mysterious older woman. This is supposed to be an escape from the constant trauma surrounding their recent past, a way to save their marriage and their sanity. When they return to their own house, still full of those terrible memories, something feels off to Angela, but she just can’t place why. She has been experiencing bizarre dreams since the incident, and you are never sure what is reality or a product of her anxiety. Is she an unreliable narrator? If there is a conspiracy, who is in on it? Believe me, you will keep wondering until a wonderful finale.
I think there is something very natural about Tim’s voice and style. He sets his writing in New Jersey where he resides, and that authenticity is evidenced in the dialogue. The conversations appear organic, adding depth to the events as they unfold. The setting feels genuine, and I could picture it perfectly despite my mind trying to take me to MTV’s version of the Jersey Shore.
Using plenty of evocative description, you feel that you are on this journey into madness (or is it?) alongside Angela and as the lucid visions become more frequent, you too experience her descent as the book moves from a psychological almost thriller-esque premise, to a more cosmic feel. Having read more of Tim’s work, this is often the case and I now look forward to the shift and what supernatural elements he is going to inject into the story.
The Switch House is in my opinion, fairly unpredictable. There are plenty of red herrings and use of seemingly secondary characters that may or may not know something more than they are letting on. Sort of like The Truman Show, only with this, you genuinely don’t discover until the end who knows what and how much is just there to misguide you. The easy dialogue and heavy description almost reads much like a movie, and if it was, you wouldn’t want to stop it right up until the end credits roll. You will find yourself saying just one more chapter, just one more page to see if you were right in your predictions.
If you like clever horror, often with a supernatural or occult twist, you will enjoy any of Tim’s. The Switch House in particular is a wonderful blend of emotional and psychological cosmic horror with Hitchcockian and Lovecraftian undertones. It is the perfect introduction to someone who in my opinion, is destined for literary stardom. The majority of people know how much I adore the work of Glenn Rolfe and Hunter Shea. Well, let it be known that if they are my joint number one, Tim is very much settled at number two. Who knows, after having devoured Wormword, Dead Daughters, Malignant Summer and Paradise Club in just a few months, there may well be a three-way tie …
Trading in a police badge and then classroom, Janine is a full-time Splatterpunk Award-nominated writer, whilst also being a mum, wife and Disney addict. Influenced by the works of King from a young age, she likes to shock readers with violence and scare them with monsters – both mythical and man-made. When she’s not killing people off, she likes to chew the fat with other authors – reviewing books and conducting interviews for her podcast and YouTube channel. You’ll likely find her devouring work by Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Her biggest fan, beta reader, editor and financier is her loving husband. He just wants her to write a story about werewolves that wear shoes on their hands …