When Susan and Alex Wendt find their ideal Brooklyn apartment, everything looks rosy for the couple and their young daughter. Soon after moving in they begin to discover the odd problem but it’s nothing major – the landlady seems a bit eccentric, one of the floorboards is sticking up, there’s a strange smell in one of the rooms, and an odd pinging noise coming from somewhere.
But one morning Susan finds she has been bitten by a bug. She starts to suspect the apartment has bedbugs but exterminators can’t find any and no one seems to believe her. Why is she the only one getting bitten? The problem starts to intensify with Susan getting increasingly obsessed. Is it bedbugs or something stranger? Is she just losing her mind?
I can’t reveal any more of the story without giving too much away so I will stop there.
I don’t normally read horror these days so I approached this book with some trepidation. I initially thought it was going to be a ‘nature gone mad’ story with bedbugs rampaging and devouring screaming victims in seconds. Which could have been cool but this is a different type of book.
Bedbugs is more of a slow burner. Ben H. Winters very slowly builds the tension until things really kick off at the end. I was reminded of Rosemary’s baby crossed with a more standard thriller. I was surprised how much I liked it. The book is simply but well written. It is also fairly well-paced but I did feel that the ending, while satisfying, seemed as if too many things kicked off at once. It gets very intense very quick but I suppose that could be the point. This was a minor gripe though, as it was an exciting and surprising ending that I didn’t see coming.
The characters are well rounded although it was here I had my only real problem with Bedbugs. I found the main character Susan a bit too neurotic and paranoid from the start. Curiously, once she starts getting bitten and her paranoia is justified I found myself warming to her. So it isn’t that much of a problem as my empathy was there by the time the final scenes started to escalate.
Ben H. Winter’s Bedbugs is enjoyable and well written. It’s a quick read, with some genuinely chilling moments and tension. It would be ideal beach or airplane fodder. Just be prepared to scratch.
The book is on sale from the 6th September.