Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

When Susan and her husband, Alex, find the perfect Brooklyn apartment for a great price on Craigslist, they don't set their hopes too high. But the place exceeds their expectations - it even has an extra room where Susan can paint. They manage to charm the landlady with the help of their toddler, Emma, and the apartment is theirs.

But after they move in strange things occur. There is a horrible stench coming from Susan's new art studio. Their landlady becomes increasingly odd. Alex is too busy at work to notice, but Susan is convinced there is something sinister about the apartment. Then Susan finds a bite on her arm which she insists is from a bedbug, although neither Alex nor Emma have bites, and there is no evidence of the bugs. Susan desperately tries to prove the existence of bedbugs in their apartment, to no avail. Do they have bedbugs or is Susan going crazy?

Bedbugs is reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby. It features a couple moving into a strange new place and a quirky but friendly old lady. 

The book starts off slow, gradually revealing problems with the apartment - the smell in the room, a strange "ping" noise, a seemingly incompetent handyman, odd phrases the landlady says - but manages to never be boring.

I enjoyed how the bedbug is portrayed in the novel - instead of simply being a disgusting bug that feeds off your dead skin while you sleep, they are evil.

The novel mostly focuses on Susan, and she's a well-written and likable character, albeit a bit selfish and dense at times. She stays at home to paint - but never seems to get around to it, even though she has a nanny take care of Emma during the day - while her husband works long hours at a job he hates to support them. Okay, that doesn't sound too horrible, but Alex is also an artist and gave up his dreams to take care of his family. I felt sorry for him.

The landlady, Andrea, is an interesting character and manages to be creepy even though she's mostly described as a harmless old lady.

Bedbugs is an atmospheric horror novel and if the bedbugs don't make your skin crawl, the actions of the peculiar landlady will. Available now as a paperback or in Kindle format.

Rating: 4/5