The Toll House – Carly Reagon

Published By: Little Brown
Pages: 352
Released On: 06/10/2022

The past isn’t always dead and buried.

A house with history. That’s how the estate agent described the old toll house on the edge of the town. For Kelda it’s the perfect rural home for her young son Dylan after a difficult few years.

But when Kelda finds a death mask concealed behind one of the walls, everything changes. Inexplicable things happen in the house, Kelda cannot shake the feeling of being watched and Dylan is plagued by nightmares, convinced he can see figures in his room. As Dylan’s behaviour becomes increasingly challenging, Kelda seeks answers in the house’s mysterious past. But she’s running out of time. 

Because something has awoken.

And now it won’t rest…


Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I first picked this up one evening when I was alone in the house and it sounded so scary – and I’m such a wuss – that I pushed it back until I had company.

This echoed the classic horror stories of years gone by. The ones that aren’t in your face or over the top, they’re not jump scares. It’s that cold fear that gets into your bones and you start to question whether you can see a face in that shadow.

I liked the dual time periods of present day and the 1800s. It’s not chopped and changed every chapter so it doesn’t feel stilted or stop/start. But it’s enough for you to feel comfortable in both time periods and they both gives nods to the other.

Even though I was thoroughly enjoying it, at about 40% of the way through I had to put it down for the day as it was scaring me too much. I’ve never read a book that’s physically given me chills; I even had to pick up a lighter book so that I could get to sleep.

Carly’s writing is so chilling, so atmospheric. It’s not full on twists and turns, they’re used sparingly but to great effect.

All the characters were fantastically written, especially our main protagonist Kelda and her son Dylan.

Even though it is very supernatural with ghosts and poltergeists and whatnot, it felt very tangible and so real you could feel it happening to you. I think it helps that she has interspersed it with the mundane – going to work, picking kids up from school, seeing family, doing gardening, moving house – so it lulls you into this false sense of security.

I did at first think it would make a good TV series or film but now I’ve finished it, I’m not sure it would. That’s not because it isn’t any good, on the contrary, it’s fantastic, but I think most of the terror comes from your imagination and not being able to see everything all at once, that’s where the fear lies – in the not knowing – and I think a big screen might take some of that away.

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