House. Tree. Person.

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

This was very hard to get into. While the synopsis seemed promising, the actual storyline just was not intriguing at all. Unfortunately, I gave up it was so uninteresting.
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nicely written and well developed book with good characters and an interesting plot. It kept me interested and reading up until the end!
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This is funny... I was approved for this title via Netgalley on the original pub date on 9/8/17 and didn't have time to download it before it was archived. Funny enough.. it was sitting on my shelf few weeks ago? I ended up buying it last year when I couldn't get a copy before it was archived. So, It worked out I can now provide feedback :).

I was originally drawn in by the title of this book House. Tree. Person. and of course the book revolving around a psychiatric hospital. Ali, an employee who works for the hospital becomes very concerned about a body that recently was discovered close to her location. Did one of her patients do it? Or, is her own son responsible for the body who continues to be more and more secretive as each day passes. 

I was a tad bit confused by the beginning of the book but feel this was intentional due to our main character Ali's mental state of mind. I would definitely categorize this as a very slow burning mystery. It had some twists and turns but nothing that was overly shocking. I was hoping for more from McPherson but overall this novel was well written with a creepiness and dark/ominious feel with the unreliable characters. 

3.5 stars for House. Tree. Person

Thank you to Netgalley and Midnight Ink for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest opinion.

Publication date: 9/8/17
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I eagerly recommend Catriona McPherson’s “House. Tree. Person.” as an intriguing 4 star read.
                        
I do enjoy reading Catriona McPherson’s books based in the Galloway region and enjoy following the characters journey’s between the towns that my family spoke of during my childhood. 

This book is a good paced thriller filled with so much suspense you just don’t know what the twist is until the very end (or at least I didn’t). 

This book was an easy, yet engrossing, read and had me hooked early on.  The author tells the backstory at the perfect pace to ensure the reader turns page after page. 

Thanks to Catriona McPherson, Midnight Ink and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review this engrossing suspense novel.
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4 stars!! Kudos to this wonderful female British crime voice! House, Tree, Person had me intrigued from the first page until the very last. Highly recommend for lovers of pscyhological dramas!
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Many have fudged a bit on their resume to get a good job, but Ali McGovern takes it to a higher level when she applies for a position as a beautician and art therapist at Howell Hall, a psychiatric institution. She is a beautician. In fact, she once owned her own thriving salon. But after her husband Marco’s restaurant crashed and burned (metaphorically), taking Ali’s salon down with it, the couple and their sullen teen son, Angelo, have moved to a—shall we say—less ostentatious home in a decidedly downscale neighborhood compared to where they were. It’s an adjustment, and it was a rather public fall. It seems like the neighbors are just waiting for them to mess up, and Ali figures that probably won’t be too hard. In her eyes, she doesn’t have a whole lot to lose.

Working my way round the back of Auchencairn, old ladies frowning through their nets to see who it was, I decided to do something only poor people do.


I decided to lie my way into a job. And not just a bit of spit and polish on the old CV, like everyone—sole responsibility for day-to-day running, cash handling, managerial experience. I decided to tell big, fat, dangerous porkers, to defraud people who needed to count on me, to short-change people who needed more than I could give them. I reached over, took the thin green folder with my true-life history in it and threw it in the back seat, leaving the plump, buff folder with the resume that was going to land me this job sitting there under my good black handbag, ticking like a time bomb.

Speaking of Howell Hall—it makes a big impression on Ali right at the outset:

With a closer look, you could tell Howell Hall was something different. The keypad entry at the front door, the reinforced glass in the downstairs windows, the bars over the plain glass of the windows on the bedroom floor, and round the corner a high chain-link fence separating the garden, with its many benches and its spacious gazebo, from the open drive.

There was someone in that gazebo. I didn’t stare but I could tell even from the corner of my eye that they were dressed in night clothes. No one wore pale pink trousers and a pink fluffy mackintosh. Those were pyjamas and a dressing gown, so that was a patient. One of the special needs clients of my so-called wide experience.

To Ali’s shock, she does get the job at Howell Hall after presenting her padded (by Marco, no less) resume to the intimidating Dr. Ferris. The new job takes some getting used to, but Ali is no wilting violet. Plus, her wry sense of humor (her cynicism is finely honed because of recent life events) actually gets her pretty far with the staff and some of the residents of Howell Hall—especially Julia, an 18-year-old girl who is supposedly at Howell because of a personality disorder. But Ali’s spidey-sense tingles when she’s around Julia. 

To add to their seeming good fortune, Marco gets a good job too, and things seem to be on the upswing. But when a body is found in a nearby abbey, Ali has a bad feeling. That damn abbey has creeped her out since they moved in, and this just compounds it. 

Of course, as soon as Angelo clapped eyes on the Abbey, he wanted to go exploring and I went with him, big lunk of fourteen though he was. Too many things had gone wrong too fast and I was holding on tight, grabbing any chance of him showing an interest in anything—even this—to see if I could get him talking. 

The grass around the ruin had looked like velvet from a distance, but it was lumpy and uncomfortable to walk on. Fallen masonry, I told myself, but I couldn’t kick the thought that it was coffins, or even bodies with their coffins long rotted away.

It doesn’t help Ali’s state of mind that Angelo is acting strangely (even more so than a normal teen acts), and he seems a little too shifty for her comfort on the night the body is found. He later tries to play it off as girl trouble, but Ali’s not sure how much she believes that. Ali is increasingly suspicious that something strange is going on at Howell Hall, and Ali is hearing voices in her head again. 

When Ali reveals—over the course of the story—her history with mental illness (she had a breakdown about 10 years ago), her status as a reliable narrator starts to blur a little. But that’s part of the fun. What’s really going on at Howell, and is it all in Ali’s imagination?

Catriona McPherson knows how to lay on the creep and keep it building for maximum effect, and her talent for domestic suspense is second to none. Parents, especially of teenagers, will especially identify with Ali and her determination to relate to her son. Even jaded mystery readers will appreciate how McPherson reveals the truth about that dead body in the Abbey. This suspenseful, paranoid, and eerie story is why I love mysteries and suspense. Get a hold of this one ASAP.
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A quick and entertaining read, that was spooky and enjoyable at the same time.
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I really enjoyed this. Intriguing story, a well-paced storyline with realistic, approachable characters.
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It was a well written thiller.
I would recommend it.
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It is an understatement to say Alison McGovern's family has had some setbacks. Once, they had a lovely house, she owned a thriving beauty salon called 'Face Value', and her husband, Marco, took over his successful family restaurant.  But... Marco had other ideas. He wanted more - his ideas were grand, but he ended up taking their house AND her business along with his, when he overextended himself financially by borrowing against their assets. Now Alison, Marco, and their teenage son, Angelo live in a tiny rented cottage living on the cheapest of groceries and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Their circumstances seem to be 'on the up' when, within just a few days of each other, they both procure employment. Ali gets work as a beautician/art therapist at an independent psychiatric hospital situated in the Galloway countryside.  Her beautician experience was embellished on her resume, and she feels a sham, but the excellent salary offered causes her to push her guilt to the recesses of her mind. Despite her lack of psychiatric knowledge about her new position, she seems to form an immediate bond with one of the residents of 'Howell Hall'. Sylvie has been diagnosed as having hysterical catatonia - but she reacts to Ali's kind advances.

"Touch is a problem for British people and maybe Scots most of all. We're not huggers. But gentle touch can do wonders for someone feeling the ache of loss or loneliness."

She begins to enjoy the work, despite herself, but senses that there are many secrets being hidden at Howell Hall.  Nothing is quite what they would have you assume...

"What was the rottenness at the heart of Howell Hall?"

The title of the novel references a psychiatric test called "House. Tree. Person." in which the patient is asked to draw these three things in order for the doctors to assess their personality.

The reader is made aware that Alison has a dark secret in her past. We know that she had been emotionally unwell, and that she herself had been hospitalized for six months - years ago. Her husband Marco is constantly referring to her past illness with jibes like "when you weren't so great", or  "don't go down that road again". The reader is also made aware that Alison is estranged from her parents, who live in France. Alison's son Angelo, though moody and uncommunicative, demonstrates that he wants to protect her.

"that strange couple of days when they found the remains and we got jobs and for some reason the good news turned us sour instead of sweet."

With only the first day of work at Howell Hall under her belt, Ali returns home to their cottage to find that there has been a body found in the grounds of the Abbey across the lane. Her son, Angelo makes a strange remark when the body is discovered. "I'd just about given up, as it goes."  This grisly discovery sets her life, and the lives of those she loves on an escalating and devastating spiral that will leave none of them unscathed.

This book was an excellent read - but extremely difficult to review as it would be only to easy to divulge too much of the plot and ruin it for future readers.  Suffice it to say that I loved it just as much as a previous novel by this author that I read several years ago, "The day she died". The characters are so real that you feel you've met them before. The dialogue flows seamlessly, and to say the setting was atmospheric would be an understatement. The plot was complicated, yet had a brilliant resolution. Everything I like best when reading a thriller. 

Very highly recommended by me!
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Tree. House. Person. has so many twists! I cannot recall a book as many twists as this book! This book is told in the first person by Ali McGovern, wife, mother who is recently employed by Howell Hall.  She has not had an easy life, but getting the job which pays quite well is a good thing... right?  Well, then there is the long-dead body which is discovered right across the street from Ali's home.  Trouble starts at work when she starts to get close to two residents of the hall.  Her boss seems to not like her.  Her son is embarrassed by his "girlfriend." We also learn about the troubles Ali and her family have had in the past.  From un-loving parents to the loss of a child at birth.  Ali has no idea, but there are people conspiring against her.  I do not want to give too much detail, but as I stated, so so so many twists. The ending it jammed packed with action, so much so, I could feel the anxiousness Ali must have been feeling.  I give this a solid 4-star review. Got to love a book with so much to tell and when it tells the story and you feel the intensity!
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A lot happens in this book -- and arguably, too much -- but it remains creepy in all the right ways: a too-good-to-be-true mental health facility, abandoned church grounds, family dysfunction, buried secrets... 

I'll be checking out McPherson's other books.
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Catriona McPherson, who is known for writing the lighthearted Dandy Gilver mysteries, has lately been writing darker standalones. HOUSE. TREE. PERSON. is her latest—and maybe her best so far.

Alison McGovern, a beautician, has just been hired on at Howell Hall, a Scottish psychiatric hospital, as a beauty and art therapist—never mind that she has little experience. Her husband, Marco, has stretched the truth on her CV, and Ali gets the job. On her first day of work, a body is found in the crumbling abbey ruins across from her house—and it seems her teenage son, Angelo, may know more than he is letting on. Soon, police are calling him a person of interest.

The family, once comfortably middle class, is now living in a small, crowded cottage, still dealing with the aftermath of Marco's business having failed. And Ali is still dealing with the nervous breakdown she had ten years ago. Now, surrounded by stress and strange happenings, both at home and at work, she begins to question her own sanity.

The items in the title refer to a diagnostic tool used by psychologists—a patient is asked to draw those three items—and so Ali decides to use it on several patients, including one who is near-catatonic. Her approaches are bumbling, since she has never worked in a mental health facility. Nevertheless, they start to bring up long-buried secrets.

McPherson has written a solid, stay-up-all-night-reading psychological thriller. The setting, in the Galloway countryside, is spooky on its own, but the author layers so much more upon it—twisted family dynamics, an unreliable narrator, a mental hospital whose staff (not just its patients) seem damaged, and a suspenseful plot that delivers twist upon twist.

To that pantheon of great psychological suspense writers—authors like Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters and the team of Nicci French—you can now add Catriona McPherson's name.
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House. Tree. Person. is a new suspense novel by Catriona McPherson.  Alison “Ali” McGovern along with her husband, Marco and son, Angel have just moved to small home after losing their dream home and their businesses.  Their quiet life is disturbed when a body is found next door at Dundeennan Abbey. Angel spends quite a bit of his free time at the abbey and Ali wonders if he knows more than he is revealing.  Marco is online and discovers an opening for a beauty therapist at the local high-end psychiatric facility, Howell Hall for Ali.  With a doctored resume, Ali applies and gets the position.  Ali has her patients draw her a picture containing a house, a tree, and a person.  It is amazing what a simple picture can reveal about a person.  She soon discovers that Howell Hall is full of secrets and danger.  Who buried the body at the abbey?  What is going on at Howell Hall? What happens when Ali gets too close to the truth?

House. Tree. Person sounded like such an intriguing suspense novel.  However, I found it to be a slow-paced novel that is deciding lacking in suspense (I wanted to be gripping my book, riveted, quickly turning the pages to find out what happened next—instead I was sighing with boredom).  The story plays out in an expected manner (no surprises or great twists).  The first half of House. Tree. Person. plods along with slightly more action in the second half.  Personally, I wish the story had not been written in the first person.  Ali is an unlikeable character (whiny, dramatic) and her ramblings made the story even worse.  I know what the author was trying to accomplish (make the story more intriguing and make readers assume things), but I was frustrated/displeased/annoyed/irritated.  Ali overreacts to every single little thing.  I can understand why her son spends so little time at home.  To those of us who read mysteries like they are going out of style, you will figure out the guilty parties long before the reveal (foreseeable).  I did have trouble with some of the word usage (Scottish slang words used by Angel, the son).  Usually, I can discern the meaning from the context.  I wish the publisher had provided a dictionary at the end of the book (or changed out the words for Americans).  I do want to advise readers that there is foul language in this book.  My rating for House. Tree. Person. is 2 out of 5 stars (I was not a fan).  Parts of the story are just unrealistic (this is not science fiction).  Ali gets a job she is underqualified for and passes a background check that she knows she cannot pass.  Didn’t she wonder how this was accomplished?  The characters lacked depth/development.  I thought they were flat.  I did not feel this novel was up to Catriona McPherson’s usual standards.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

House. Tree. Person. Is about Ali. Ali and her husband have been down on their luck recently - they lost both their businesses and had to downsize their house. Ali finds a new job as a beauty and art therapist at the local psychiatric hospital. 
Ali's 15 year old son, Angelo, likes to hang out at the old Abbey opposite their house. Then one day, a corpse is found at the Abbey. 
The rest of the novel is Ali trying to unravel the mystery about the corpse, the patients at the hospital and her own state of mental health.

I enjoyed this book but at times I did wonder whether the gaps in the plot were due to bad writing or whether it was on purpose so that we would question Ali's state of mind.. and then question every thing that Ali is finding out about her patients, her family and the corpse. I'm going to choose to believe the latter!
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Couldn't put it down, and I love that it got stuck in my head.
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House, Tree, Person is a quick and entertaining read. The story line is a little predictable and some of the characters one-dimensional, but it is nevertheless enjoyable. This is a good book to pick up at the end of a tiring day when a relaxing read is what is needed to unwind. Thanks to Midnight Ink and NetGalley for the ARC.
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3,5 Stars
„House. Tree. Person“ is a dark psychological thriller. It is a bit of a slow burner and I would have wished for a little bit more tension.

The title was the thing that got me first. I never heard of that term but when you read the book you will understand. The story is told from Ali’s POV.  I had some difficulties finding into the book. Ali obviously had some kind of trauma but we learn about what happened 10 years ago later in the book. But Ali and her husband Marco are referring to it all the time. Sometimes I had the feeling I missed something. And it was the reason I could not bond with her. She often reacted irrational and hysterical and I could not understand why. 

The story is suspicious from the beginning. After a long time of struggeling to get along with jobs they suddenly are both lucky. Marco gets inventive on Ali’s CV and she get a job in the local psychiatric facility.  All about that seems strange, even her ridiculous generous wage. She is not trained to work with troubled people but somehow nobody cares. All about this situation is weird. Beside that there is a lot going on in Ali’s family life as well.

The book is a mixed bag for me. I liked the plot, the mysterious things going on in this facility. Although it all was a bit chaotic. But it really was a slow burner and I had some problem with the main character Ali. I am also not sure if I liked the writing style. And the end was too rushed. Nevertheless it was a quick and entertaining read.
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A great quality unique read that held my attention the whole way.
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