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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    Reality or Delusions of An Anxious Insomniac?

    Bedbugs is a horror novel narrated by an insomniac, unemployed mother who has anxiety problems. Told through Susan Wendt’s impressions, the reader is never sure what is truth and what is imagined by this woman who is so influenced by media and her own insecurities. The novel blurs the line between reality and imagination at every turn – it is not until the very last chapter that the reader learns the true story and knows who to believe.

    The story begins with Susan Wendt searching for the perfect place for her family to live. Susan has recently quit her job at a law firm to pursue her painting. Her husband Alex makes decent money photographing jewelry and watches for a commercial company. Their daughter Emma is a well-adjusted child who is watched by a young nanny in the mornings and early afternoon. After months of searching, Susan has found a place that sounds too good to be true – it is a charming, two-story home in Brooklyn with a bonus room in which Susan can paint. The house is everything they have been looking for and they can afford it; they fall in love with it on sight. Susan even loves their landlord, an eccentric old woman named Andrea Scharfstein. Susan and Alex decide to move in.

    During the first night in the house, the reader learns that Susan is not as care-free and happy as she lets on. After her husband and daughter are fast asleep, Susan continues to unpack because she has terrible insomnia. She is sure that her husband resents her for not working and staying home to paint while he is stuck in a lousy job instead of taking artistic photographs, she chastises herself for not being able to paint and for wasting money on a nanny when she doesn’t work, she thinks about her mother’s untimely death…all these self-deprecating thoughts make her unable to sleep. That first night she is sure she sees a man standing outside her daughter’s window.

    Then things start to go very wrong with the house and her marriage. Alex is stressed about work and Susan blames herself; she starts having horrible nightmares filled with blood and gore. Susan begins to notice little problems with the house – there are cracks, loose outlet covers, uneven floorboards, and most bizarre of all – a faint pinging noise with no discernible source. When Susan finally steps into the bonus room to paint, there is a horrendous smell and a strange photograph with a bloody fingerprint. Andrea tells her the story of the couple who lived there before them, but something doesn’t seem right to Susan. One day, Susan meets Louis – the elderly handyman and friend of Andrea’s – and learns that there was a tragedy in the basement and a subsequent darkening of the houses’ atmosphere. But all of this is just the beginning of Susan’s terror-filled journey…how much is reality and how much is a product of her anxious brain? Is she losing it or is there a menace in her home?

    Bedbugs is an intense and suspenseful narrative told from the perspective of a likable woman with glaring psychological issues. From the very beginning, the reader connects with Susan and feels like he truly knows her. He wants to trust her and believe her reality, but at the same time, his objectivity is constantly questioning her perceptions. This novel does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing - any time another clue is revealed it only adds to his confusion. This story is a real page-turner – the reader will be hooked until the very last page!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review

    Remember those Quirk Books that literally redefined the classics of Sense & Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by adding sea monsters and zombies? Ben Winters even wrote/rewrote Android Karenina...which I did enjoy as much as I did the classic Tolstoy version.

    Anyway here is a book he wrote all by himself. A thriller with bedbugs at the core of the plot. It was heart-wrenching watching Susan lose her sanity inch by inch. No one close to her believed she had bedbugs but then people farther away started shutting her out just in case. I have heard they are making a comeback so that made this book extra creepy. You will get itchy reading it. And I don't recommend reading it in bed.

    Fast paced, well written, and most important very scary. Characters are all well developed and either likable or creepy...whatever they need to be. Susan finally finds and ally who comes to her aid after Susan loses it and attacks her husband. The "exterminatrix" comes to her aid, and when Susan tells her what she did the lady laughs and says "Well, you know, infestations place extraordinary strain upon a relationship."

    Great ending that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. I'm so very grateful to Quirk Books for letting me read this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 26, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

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