Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Mice

Mice by Gordon Reece

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Thriller
Pages: Hardcover, 336pp
ISBN-13: 9780670022847
ISBN: 0670022845

(Received for an honest review from Viking)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Gordon Reece on the WEB: website

Excerpt from Mice
Book Trailer:


Shelley and her mother have been menaced long enough. Fleeing their fears and anxieties, they retreat to Honeysuckle Cottage deep in the countryside, which they hope will put a halt to years of suffering at the hands of others. Shelley has endured merciless bullying from the girls who used to be her best friends, and Elizabeth's domineering husband of eighteen years has abandoned them for a younger woman. For Shelley and Elizabeth are "mice" - timid, nervous and obliging.

At first they flourish in their cottage haven, drinking hot chocolate and listening to Brahms by the fire. But on the even of her sixteenth birthday, Shelley wakes to a creak on the stairs. Someone is in the house...

In the shocking events that follow, these women find themselves tested as never before, and as their lives spiral out of control, Shelley begins to wonder, if she and her mother aren't mice after all, then what are they?

By turns horrifying and humorous, Mice is a taut tale of gripping suspense, told with a delectable mix of wit, irony and tainted innocence that transforms the pressing issue of bullying into an edge-of-your-seat adventure to the outer reaches of right and wrong. 


Mice, the debut novel by Gordon Reece explores the idea of just how much a person can take before they snap. This novel is in turn both terrifying and shocking. Bullying is an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent in today's society and Reece has created a book that will leave readers questioning if violence is ever really justified? And asking themselves if the cost is worth it? Reece takes a timid, "mousy" character and transforms her innocence into something haunting and more than a little scary. What happens when the mouse turns on the cat?

Shelley and her mom, Elizabeth need an escape, a place where they can start to rebuild their lives. Honeysuckle Cottage is that safe haven, that place of rest after a long hard fought battle. Shelley is the victim of terrifying schoolgirl bullying that nearly cost her, her life. Her mother Elizabeth has lived with a controlling husband for eighteen years. Both women are battered and tired. But on the eve of Shelley's sixteenth birthday a man breaks into their home and sets in motion a series of events that will change their lives forever. Violence may sometimes be justified, but you can't ever take it back...

Gordon Reece's debut novel starts out with a great premise, a fast-paced plot and characters with some deep seated issues. When readers first meet Shelley she is being bullied and physical abused. Reece describes her experiences in an unpretentious manner that builds sympathy for Shelley and sets up the story for what's to come. She is both scared and humiliated and keeps everything inside until she is almost killed. Elizabeth's journey is different but brings her to essentially the same place. She has lived with a husband who belittles her and co-workers who are no less menacing. Reece is able to really allow the reader to feel these very strong emotions from his characters. He brings them into stark reality. I found the first part of the book emotionally satisfying and I felt like I knew these characters and what they were all about.

When Reece returns to the present day at Honeysuckle Cottage, deep in the English countryside, the reader almost gets to take a breath, when tragedy once again knocks at Shelley's door. When a man breaks into their home and expects these "mice" to act a certain way, he isn't prepared for the outcome. Events spiral out of control as Shelley and Elizabeth prove that they are no longer going to look for a place to hide. Readers are probably expecting Reece to send someone to the rescue to save these characters from any more devastation. But Reece takes the road less traveled and transforms the characters we learned to like in the first half of the book into something quite different. He takes the idea that you must sometimes fight to survive to a whole new level in this book. Do we count the cost before we do something that irrevocable?

Some readers will think that Reece has taken this a bit too far. But I know from personal experience the tole that bullying takes on a person's psyche. How repeated humiliation and torture can take a person to their breaking point and beyond with devastating consequences. When I was in high school there was a student that was constantly bullied, battered and humiliated on a nearly daily basis. He was timid, quiet, a good student and never let on that he was bothered by what was happening. One day after years of this behavior he was called out by a teacher and tore down in front of everyone. Nobody really thought anything about it until he came to class the next day and shot her and a janitor who heard the shots and came to help. He just couldn't take any more and he snapped. I don't think Reece took it too far... maybe not far enough. 

This is a novel that will leave readers wondering if violence is ever justified? Just how much can the emotional balance in our brains can take? How far is too far? I think the author did an amazing job of bringing a serious issue to the forefront and exploring where it takes a person. I think one of the most interesting parts of the novel is where all this takes Shelley. In the end the reader will probably see her as empowered, but the hair on the back of their necks will likely stand on end and they will wonder if she's capable of doing it again... is she just a little off center... what was the cost to herself? It's a certainly a creepy place to end a novel and I think the author was counting on that.

I recommend this one to psychological thriller fans and to those who love to see the progression that a character goes through. Readers may find themselves wondering if these are the same two characters in the first half of the book, the differences are so pronounced. I thought it was well written, very evocative and a bit chilling. Hit a little close to home for me, but books that do that are usually the ones that hit home with others as well. It's not a light book, so don't go into it thinking it's an easy read. It's sophisticated and a little harsh, but in this case that's a good thing. Violence good, bad or justified carries a heavy price.

Mice is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Originally from the United Kingdom, Gordon Reece studied English literature at Keble Collage, Oxford, before emigrating to Spain and then Australia, where he has lived since 2005. He has written and illustrated fourteen children's books and graphic novels. Mice is his American debut and first novel.

1 comment:

Sophia said...

Wow, that sounds amazing. It's going straight on my list - fantastic review!