The Short Straw

‘An intensely readable and gripping pageturner’ - Alex Michaelides, author of THE SILENT PATIENT

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Pub Date 14 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 15 Feb 2024

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'An outstanding thriller. Just make sure you read it with ALL the lights on.' Reader review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

'All the wows!!!' Reader review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One sister went out into the dark for help. Will she come back?
Returning from a difficult visit to their father, three sisters find themselves lost in a storm. Together, they seek safety in an abandoned manor house, a place where they spent a troubled childhood clinging to each other for support, before one day fleeing with their parents in the dead of night.

As the storm intensifies, the sisters draw straws to decide who should go outside to get help. But as they separate, they realise they might not be alone. . . Why did the family leave so suddenly all those years ago? Who else is hiding in the house? And will the sisters survive the night?

Read what everyone is saying about The Short Straw:
'An intensely readable and gripping page-turner. By turns tense, shocking and moving, and with an atmosphere you could cut with a knife' ALEX MICHAELIDES

'An addictive read that takes place over one unforgettable night where one family's secrets rise to the surface - Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson' GILLIAN MCALLISTER

'Deliciously creepy, and a fascinating study of the complex, often toxic, relationships within families' SHARON BOLTON

'Utterly gripping and unputdownable' JANE FALLON

'Having three sisters, I could relate to the sibling dynamics . . . It's twisty, gothic, and with a heartbreakingly shocking reveal' LISA HALL

'Holly creates such exquisite tension that you really can't put her books down . . . I felt the sense of place, the weather, the cold in that house in my bones' EMMA CURTIS

'Gripping, creepy and drenched in atmosphere' CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

'This irresistible slow-burn thriller is as much a study of family dynamics as it is a creepy & suspense-filled spine-tingler' FIONA CUMMINS

'An outstanding thriller. Just make sure you read it with ALL the lights on.' Reader review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

'All the wows!!!' Reader review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One sister went out into the dark for help. Will she come back?

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ISBN 9781398715462
PRICE £18.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

This was my first Holly Seddon read and I was impressed with it, I enjoyed her style of writing. The chapters are short with different POVs, it’s mainly set during one evening but some chapters return to past events, but it’s still easy to follow.
This was set in a creepy abandoned mansion during a storm, with no electricity so it was a tense read where everyone has a secret and you know something bad happened there in the past but you’re not sure what. I thought it was slightly slow about halfway though but then lots started to happen and the ending was full of surprises.

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I'm a longtime fan of Holly's and this was my absolute favorite - spooky house, family dynamics, a rollicking storm, a creepy child. Sold! Five stars from me.

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The Short Straw is a tale of sisters anc secrets, compelling and pacy with a terrific group dynamic of characters.

Three stranded sisters who barely know each other in ways that count, an old dilapidated house from their past and a collision of memories keeps you involved throughout this twisty tale.

Excellent plotting and a tale of the unexpected The Short Straw is a brilliant, clever one sitting read

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“Can there be anything more frightening than realising that a bad dream was actually a memory, and then finding yourself back in it?”

Sisters Nina, Lizzie and Aisa Kelsey find themselves stranded during a storm and are forced to take shelter in Moirthwaite Manor, an isolated mansion where their mother once worked. The house is swathed in darkness and appears to have long since been abandoned, leaving them wondering what happened to its former residents. Unable to agree who should go for help, the sisters draw straws to decide, and one of them heads out into the cold, dark, terrifying night. But are those inside the house any safe?

Darkly atmospheric, eerie, and forbidding, The Short Straw is a cocktail of nerve-shredding chills and adrenaline that you won't be able to put down. There’s an unrelenting unease and a dark, oppressive feeling that permeates the pages from the start. I felt like I was watching the opening of a horror film as the sisters approached Moirthwaite Manor, which has an ominous and sinister presence. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see bloodstains on the surfaces or an empty chair creaking as it rocks back and forth. It feels claustrophobic, like you can feel the walls closing in on you. I wanted to scream at them not to go in and just run away from this terrifying place. But they couldn’t hear me. So I read on while frozen with fear, desperate to know what came next but also terrified of what might be waiting in that house.

“The first thing they notice is the cold. Somehow, it feels colder inside than out. A frozen silence, years in the making, is embedded in every crevice. This place is a stranger to sunlight.”

The story is told in dual timelines, moving between the night the three sisters are sheltering from the storm and flashbacks told by their late mother, Rosemary, that slowly reveal the dark, monstrous history of the house. The characters are all richly drawn and compelling, with Kelsey's being easy to root for while the background characters felt menacing and unreliable. This compounded the heart-pounding tension and made me feel an even greater rapport with the sisters. I also loved Seddon’s decision to have Rosemary narrate the flashbacks as it makes her feel real and allowed me to form a real connection to her. It also offered a different perspective on the sisters' memories that was fascinating.

A story about three sisters trapped together in a storm is a dynamic ripe for conflict and there is tension, acrimony and drama between them from the start. But the sisters aren’t only dealing with family conflict. Each of them is trying to come to terms with their grief after Rosemary’s recent death and the author explores the different ways grief can affect us while also exploring topics such as the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and abandonment. She seamlessly weaves these more emotional themes with the haunted house trope and sense of creeping fear to create a thriller that doesn’t just send shivers down your spine but also tugs on your heartstrings.

Clever, chilling and surprising, The Short Straw is an outstanding thriller. And I loved every second of it. Just make sure you read it with ALL the lights on.

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Three sisters, Nina, Lizzie and Aisa, find themselves stranded in a storm and seek shelter in Moirthwaite Manor, an abandoned derelict mansion that their mother had previously been a housekeeper of. Once grand and imposing, the sisters are shocked to find it so dilapidated and empty. Except it isn't. As the night continues, past and present collide as the sisters remember long forgotten events from their childhood and the secrets of the Manor are discovered.

I really enjoyed this book. The dual narrative following the sisters in the present and their mum in the past was interesting and I felt that the sisters' relationships, a mix of rivalry and loyalty, was very realistic. The events at the house are genuinely intriguing and I wanted to race through the chapters to find out what was happening and why. The ending became a little confusing as the secrets were finally revealed but overall a really enjoyable read.

Thanks to Netgalley, Orion Publishing Group and author Holly Seddon for the opportunity to read and review this book as an ARC

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