I’ve had this in my giant Read For Work When You Get The Chance pile under my desk since it came in based entirely on the title. I was expecting something gloomy and noir, a murder mystery with Twin Peaks forest vibes and potential Leadbelly/Nirvana soundtracks.
Kind of. It wasn’t as noir as I expected, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a character investigating their *own murder*. Shiver The Whole Night Through is essentially a paranormal romance with some detective work and supernatural badness thrown in, set in n a gloomy Irish town with a tragic, famine related history.
When we first meet Aidan Flood, he is teetering on the edge of the town’s ancient bridge, about to plunge to his self-inflicted death. He has endured months of merciless bullying and psychological torture because his then GF cheated on him, and sees suicide as his best option. Being cheated on is honestly the reason. I feel like this is one of the book’s weakest aspects- I can’t imagine a scenario where this is believable. Kids can be ruthless devils, everyone knows this. You do not need to invent such a weird reason for someone to be bullied. Being poor, as Aiden is, or a bit of a loner, as Aiden also is, is motive enough for him to become a target. The GF cheating story just felt completely unnecessary and redundant and kind of weakened the book’s premise for me.
Anyway, he decides against death at the last minute and goes home- only to discover the following morning that Sláine McAuley, a popular, beautiful, clever girl that was the year above him at school, has been found dead in the haunted Shook Woods. The town is bereft. The police say hypothermia; Sláine simply laid herself down in the cold and froze to death, no matter how out of character it might sound. Unconvinced, Aiden refuses to believe that Sláine was suicidal. Not that he has ever spoken to her…but she didn’t bully him. His suspicions are confirmed when he receives creepy, frozen messages telling him “I didn’t kill myself”. Drawn to the scene, Aidan returns to the woods to look for clues, or to catch the killer, or mope…but what he finds is more unusual than that. It’s Sláine- not alive, but not entirely dead either; a powerful, more beautiful than ever, ghost like entity. And she wants answers.
Together, Aidan and Sláine delve into the town’s tragic history and examine some of its shadier characters in an attempt to discover who killed her and why, and if the murder is in some way connected to the unnaturally long, sub-zero winter the town seems to be caught up in. Just the town. The rest of Ireland is fine, it’s just the town and the surrounding woods and mountains. Meanwhile, some kind of feral animal is savaging the school’s numerous bullies, leaving them mangled and half dead- they all have one thing in common, Aidan.
I absolutely loved the setting- the mountains and the woodland that made the town so isolated, the reason it suffered such devastating losses during the famine. The author really did a great job of creating that neglected, shabby town vibe. The problem families that think they’re the Corleones, the dodgy estates, the crummy high streets. I really liked Aidan as a character, he was such a real person. Yes, he was quite annoying, smoking too much because he thought it made him edgy, being a dick to his adorable best friend Podsy, feeling sorry for himself and brooding endlessly on why life is So Unfair. Though Aidan is a bit melodramatic, he really aspires to get out of there and live a life, which is interesting considering where we first meet him. He’s an interesting character, and his inner monologue is always compelling, even if it doesn’t always make sense. Definitely not flawless, he would annoy the hell out of me for sure. But teenagers are often like that- it’s the age where you start to *understand* how messed up everything is, and how miniscule your capacity to change any of it.
Once I’d cast off the shackles of logic, this book was actually genuinely engaging and enjoyable, like a really Irish episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where as long as you don’t think too hard about the practicalities of a mortal human dating a supernatural creature, you’ll do just fine. There were things that didn’t make sense, like why Sláine would choose to reach out to a boy she doesn’t know, how obsessed Aidan gets about his ghost girlfriend, the bullying motives, and the ending is a bit of a Scooby doo special…however. The writing is top notch, really atmospheric and foreboding, successfully combining Irish history with the supernatural and the old school, ancient power of the forest. The prose was really impressive, and successfully papered over some of the logic gaps that I might otherwise have had a hard time with.
So though it sounds like a bit of a mixed bag, I still enjoyed reading this novel and would definitely recommend it to Murder Mystery readers and fans of Paranormal Romances. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read a PR, I’m not sure I’d have read this if I’d have known that was the core plot. But I’m all for new things. Not as much Nirvana/Leadbelly as I’d hoped, but you cannot say that it isn’t an appropriate title.