This is an extraordinary book, beautifully written, modern but with overtones of gothic horror, wrapped around themes of race, class, wealth, cruelty and corruption.
Oh, and it’s a very tense thriller, too.
Yes, The Snakes is a big novel, and yet it reads as easily as a domestic drama. Bea and Dan are recently married and living in typical London professional penury in a one-bed flat. Bea is perfectly content with her low-paid psychotherapist job, while Dan, a frustrated artist, loathes being on a pittance as an estate agent.
To appeaser him, Bea agrees to a break from work – a low-budget three-month tour of Europe to give them breathing-space. Fatefully, their first stop is at Bea’s brother Alex’s hotel in France. Alex, a reformed drug addict, has been given the hotel by his wealthy father as a project to keep him out of trouble, but when Bea and Dan arrive they find it empty, dilapidated, dirty and creepy.
This nightmarish hotel’s attic is infested with snakes; and these are clearly a metaphor for Bea and Alex’s repellent parents, who soon join them in France to visit. The father is a fabulously wealthy property developer, the mother a neurotic, horribly narcissistic woman obsessed with son Alex. Their relationship, without giving too much away, is deeply odd.
There soon unfolds a terrible tragedy engulfing the whole family. The Snakes is a tense, fast-paced thriller and an examination of how great wealth corrupts. Dan begins to covet the riches his wife has always rejected. Her parents are cruel and depraved beyond belief – and the final pages are crammed with menace and terror.
This is another fabulous read from Sadie Jones; a compulsive snake-pit of abuse, corruption and fear.