Perfectly Preventable Deaths
'This is the novel the recent Sabrina reboot wishes it could be - a thrilling, eerie exploration of sisterhood, first love and dark powers hiding out of sight.' Dave Rudden
Sixteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfrann, a strange isolated Irish town, a place where the earth is littered with small corpses and unspoken truths. A place where, for generations, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains. As distance grows between the twins - as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline begins to understand her own nascent witchcraft - Madeline discovers that Ballyfrann is a place full of predators. And when Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be - or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister.
- Paperback | 368 pages
- 129 x 198 x 21mm | 269g
- 04 Jul 2019
- Hot Key Books
- London, United Kingdom
Other books in this series
30 Sep 2021
Madeleine and her twin sister, Catlin, are moving with their mum to their new step-dad Brian's hometown of Ballyfrann. A town that is known for missing girls, and found body part in the mountains. To the castle - an actual castle - Brian's father built, and where Brian's aunt Mamo also lives - a surly woman who constantly glares at them and doesn't seem to want them around. It's a small town where everyone seems to know everyone, but no-one really seems all that interested in getting to know them. Except for Lon, an older boy of 19 or 20, who has taken a keen interest in Catlin - who's interest is very much returned. It doesn't take long for Catlin to become infatuated with him, but Maddie has felt uneasy about him since they met. Maddie herself is feeling quite strange; there's some instinct in her that tells her things aren't right. She has a compulsion to gather things she believes will protect her family; salt, sage, berries. But she's also discovering her own sexuality when she meets fellow new-comer to Ballyfrann, Oona. As Catlin gets more and more entangled with the controlling Lon, Maddie's unease grows. But when the two stumble across the dead body of a fox in the woods that has clearly been sacrificed, and get Mamo for help, they realise there is definitely something strange about this town. Maddie discovers magic lives in the world, that Mamo is a witch and she might be, too. Mamo offers Maddie the opportunity to be her apprentice, but it would mean giving up on all her plans for the future, and embrace a part of herself that she's been made to feel ashamed of. But when Catlin's life is in danger, Maddie will do anything to try to save her.
At it's heart, Perfectly Preventable Deaths is a story about twin sisters and their bond. I absolutely loved Maddie and Catlin, and their relationship. Catlin is confident and sure of herself, without being arrogant, which I don't really think we see much of in YA? She's an extrovert, while Maddie is an introvert, with pretty low self-esteem. They're a bit like chalk and cheese, but they love each other. They bounce off each other so well, and they're just so funny. I loved them! And their bond was just so beautiful. Until Lon gets his claws into Catlin, she becomes infatuated, and practically addicted to him, and everything else seems to fade. Maddie really struggles with the distance growing between them, especially as she doesn't trust or like Lon, and is certain that he's no good. It was heartbreaking, but it was just wonderful seeing how much Maddie cared about her sister, but wasn't quite sure what the right thing to do was.
Perfectly Preventable Deaths is a slow burner of a novel. Not a huge deal happens at first, but that's mainly because Ballyfrann is a town full of secrets, and they're kept under lock and key for the most part. There's a pervasive sense of something not being quite right - a strangeness to the town - but for a fair while, you can't put your finger on it. A lot of the story is build-up and introspection, though it's far from boring, because there are hints throughout of something, but you just don't know what. There's the castle with it's strange secret passages, the fear and respect Brian's not-so-nice father inspired. How everyone seems to be wary of Lon, but won't say why, or do anything about it. Something is going on, and there's a definite atmosphere. And finding the sacrificed fox scares the crap out of Maddie and Catlin. Who would do that? Why would they do that? Who or what are they sacrificing it to? And, also, what happened to the missing girls, that only a few body parts were ever found? What is going on here? The more uneasy Maddie feels, the more she gathers and hides things around the house, to keep them safe - a compulsion her mum tries again and again to stamp out of her, because "this isn't normal behaviour." Mamo will only say so much, saying Maddie doesn't need to know more yet, but also refuses to answer some questions unless Maddie becomes her apprentice.
But the pace is dialled right up for the last third of the novel, and oh my god, it was just brilliant! It's sinister and malevolent, and frankly, quite messed up. And I can't talk about it without spoiling it! I do wish that Maddie was at a particular place at a certain point in the book, because I would have liked to have seen what happened first hand, but mate, it blew my mind. Not all questions are answered, and you are left with even more - especially with the epilogue!
I have thoughts and I have theories, and I need answers! Perfectly Preventable Deaths feels very much like a first book in a series, with all the build up, and all the left over questions, and I honestly can't see how this could be a standalone with that epilogue. I need to know what happens next, I need all my answers, and I need to know if my theories about the epilogue are correct, because if they are... well. I am just not ok, ok? I'm not. This story may have a conclusion, but there is so much more going on, and I think danger is practically next-year-or-so imminent! And I think Ballyfrann and it's history is seriously, possibly, really, really screwy, especially if people are perhaps purposely overlooking things, and... I am just extremely worried for Maddie, Catlin and their mum right now, and I think they need to get out of Ballyfrann pronto! I just need a sequel! But I can't find any info that says it is or not.
As you can probably guess, I adored Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and highly recommend it! It's such a mysterious, magical thriller, and I am just hooked. Do not sleep on this one!
Thank you to Hot Key Books for the proof. * Onceuponabookcase * Perfectly Preventable Deaths is wince-inducingly gruesome, with another properly evil villain waiting to do some unspeakable things to the unwary, but it's also frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Magic comes with a price but it's one that's worth paying nonetheless. * SciFi Now * WITH the upcoming release of its sequel, Precious Catastrophe, now is the perfect time to enter the world of Catlin and Maddy, the teenage twin sisters haunted by death in a way that could be described as anything but ordinary.
This is a thrilling and creepy tale filled with an insidious, evil sort of magic alongside the good, protective sort, both of which are explored with mystery and satisfying clarity. Despite all the extraordinary and supernatural occurrences that take place, this is a surprisingly down-to-earth novel, one unpretentious and unafraid to make jokes, for the suspense is built so well that light banter between sisters and between friends could not ruin it, and in fact only enhances the story.
The world built around these quick-witted and uniquely charming sisters is all the right kinds of scary with enough questions to be answered and important relationships explored that it is also filled with substance and heart. All this and more is what makes it the perfect read for leaving summer, and incredibly fitting for autumn and the lead up to Hallowe'en.
Since the loss of their father when they were two years old, inseparable twins Madeline and Catlin have dealt with death and all that is dangerous differently. Catlin sought out a more traditional route, saying quiet prayers before bed and collecting images or small statues of Mary, and grew to be extroverted, charismatic and loved by all.
Madeline, whose perspective the story is told from, found her solace in the strange, gathering plants and objects to bring her peace, finding a growing need to scatter salt as a kind of protection from the darker elements of light, despite the dismay of their mother at this odd behaviour. The two, however, find a greater need for their methods of soothing upon moving away from the city and into a much smaller Irish town with little more than a hundred people where everything feels somehow off.
Their new stepfather Brian's home, now theirs, is a real-life castle in the deeply haunting Ballyfrann, in the mountains of which, over the past century, four girls have been found dead, and Madeline can't stop herself from thinking of them. These unsolved cases lie beneath all that is good about the town and its seeming mundanity, a thread that if pulled on too much would reveal a whole world of secrets.
As Catlin grows closer to a local boy and Madeline begins to feel left out and sometimes forgotten by her oldest and closest friend - the only person she has truly been able to rely on - things in Ballyfrann start to feel more and more off. Maddy's need to gather to protect herself and her family from monsters she can't see grows stronger along with more and more conversations with Brian's strange older relative Mamo. She is a mysterious woman who creates a kind of discomfort, but a different kind than the rest of the town, the kind that comes from truth rather than secrets, and there is an undeniable magic to her that plays a part in Maddy's coming to terms with all the strange things under the surface of her new home.
This is a story full of humanity, of sisterhood and friendship, of the inherent pain and beauty of first loves and of grief, both of those close to you and for some inexplicable connection to strangers and the corpses of small animals that mean something deeper. Although it's more than 300 pages, I got through this book quickly and adored every tense, eerie moment. * The National * Perfectly Preventable Deaths is a slow paced but totally engaging book. It has got it all; relatable main characters, witchcraft, mystery, suspense with a dash of romance. The author clearly knows her craft as she is fantastic at building an atmosphere that compels the reader to keep turning the page...
Maddy and Caitlin are 16-year-old twins, who move to a small Irish town called Ballyfrann. This is a town where everyone knows everyone else, but also have their secrets. The town also has a disturbing, unsolved mystery, as for many years young girls have disappeared in the surrounding mountains. The girls, so close before coming to this town, now seem to be drifting apart. What will the consequences be as they go into these different directions?
This sinister story is only suitable for the confident 14+ reader as some of its content is quite disturbing at times; *a needed trigger warning here, as there are scenes of disturbing animal abuse (not sure that these scenes needed so much detail, especially in a YA book) and mild gore that may linger in the mind*. The plot also contains scenes of a controlling, abusive relationship and confusion of sexuality, as one of the twins questions their feelings for a friend.
This is not a book for the sensitive reader. However, in saying all of this it would be a good read for book clubs as there are so many areas for discussion and debate. I'm now interested in reading the next book, as I'm curious how the girls will cope in this sinister town. A perfect read for the Halloween months.
368 pages / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 14+ * Reading Zone *
About Deirdre Sullivan