Review | Monday 30 July 2012
While Scottish writer Louise Welsh has come across my radar from time to time, I’d never had a chance to read her until now, and was immediately struck by this tense, personal thriller.
As with her third novel, The Bullet Trick, The Girl on the Stairs is set in Berlin. Jane, a young Scottish girl, moves into an apartment block with her long-time partner, Petra. What was once a new and exciting relationship has cooled somewhat, as Petra moves up through the rich, corporate banking world, and Jane – now seven months pregnant – finds herself spending the bulk of her time on her own.
Increasingly curious of her surroundings, especially in a foreign country, Jane witnesses an altercation between a father and his daughter in the neighbouring apartment. Her maternal instincts kick in and she immediately wants to protect the girl, yet Petra remains circumspect. Jane’s investigations lead her further into the dark history of the building where she lives – a past filled with war secrets and even ghosts.
Welsh expertly heightens our fear for Jane’s safety throughout – a unique and intriguing thriller.
Michael Awosoga-Samuel is a bookseller and music specialist at Readings Carlton.