Faeries, we are told, do not exist. But what if we see them? What if they come into lives and completely change our paths and that of those around us? What if these mystical creatures manifest themselves in a real life mystery? What if their light helps overcome our darkness? Camilla Bruce’s You Let Me In is a daring novel that explores a wonderful concept with spellbinding results.
Without spoiling any of the twists and turns that are ahead, we begin the novel as something of a treasure hunt. A well known author has disappeared and it’s likely that she won’t be missed by that many. The locals believe that Cassandra Tipp got away with not one but two murders. She placed the blame on faeries – a defence that initially seems crazy.
Now she’s been gone a while, her estate needs settling. This leads her surviving family to a mysterious letter in the family home. Make it to the final words and they might just find out where all the money is but more so than that it could well be the author’s confession (or alibi).
Like Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, the novel takes the form of this epic piece of prose – an intriguing literary concept that works well on a few levels:
- It’s a great method of telling a story from the point of view of an absent protagonist (or is that antagonist?) who may or may not be dead and may or may not be innocent. Last will and testament, indeed.
- In terms of readability, we forgive any long descriptions that feel out of the realm of typical letter writing because the author is a novelist with a flair for expanding ideas. We are captive in her world with her rules.
- Cassandra Tipp could well be an unreliable narrator.
- Cassandra Tipp may not even be aware herself that she is an unreliable narrator.
I can not recall another novel that so interestingly entwines mysticism and mystery like this. I liked how an Alice in Wonderland device could be juxtaposed against a Southern Gothic style noir. Of course, this makes for a tricky tonal balancing act too.
What Camilla Bruce does well with You Let Me In is painting dual worlds that are anchored by their own rationale. Both sides of the story feel plausible to their characters.
On one hand, we are dealing with the aftermath of a possibly abusive family and how childhood trauma creates delusions as a protection for the victim to wrap themselves up in. On the other is the idea that these apparent fantasies (whereby faeries become entangled in murder) is an actual reality that is visible only to a select few.
The novel hinges on this Catch-22 blurring of sanity and provides some vivid visual cues along the way. It would be fantastic to see how a film director with an eye for kooky visuals (I’m thinking Terry Gilliam) could contort the genres of fantasy, thriller, drama and mystery via a cinematic cauldron.
You Let Me In plays with convention and as such may not be for everybody’s tastes but at its dark heart is a bold story that deserves your time to attempt to unravel it from its maze of twisted branches.
This literally spellbinding novel is out now via Bantam Press from Penguin Books.