In the latest from the author of the acclaimed novel The Outcast, recently-married psychologist Bea and Dan, an artist, visit Bea's dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy, where the ramshackle hotel is deserted, apart from Alex and the nest of snakes in the attic. After Alex and Bea's parents make a surprise visit, tragedy strikes—and in its aftermath Alex and Bea's family is stripped back to its heart, and then its rotten core, and even Bea with all her strength and goodness can't escape.
Once again, Jones simultaneously manages to draw us in while keeping us on the edge of our seats. Her narrative is threaded with mean streaks. Scenes crackle with dark energy. Characters hint at danger ... Jones’ portrayal of a dysfunctional family is as powerful as her depiction of provincial France in all its 'tasteful narrowness' and her merciless examination of greed, class and corruption. The book’s desperate last act may constitute a jolting change of gear and direction, but that matters little because the events that unfold are so electrifying.
The Snakes asks serious questions about human nature, avarice and justice, wrapped in the fast-paced rhythms of a thriller. It is written with Jones’s trademark economy and a fierce attention to the nuances of familial cruelty ... this book shifts ruthlessly, in its final pages, into concentrated terror. It’s not so much a change of focus as the brutal eruption of a truth that has been implicit all along: that evil always wears human dress, and that the good are invariably powerless to save those they love, or themselves. Sometimes the writing in this section is so pared back as to seem flat, and some readers may object to what seems like a shocking switch of genres. But I finished The Snakes with a juddering heart, strangely close to tears.
Whether or not the echo is intended, this latest novel by Sadie Jones recalls the subject matter of François Mauriac’s classic story about inheritance, Le Noeud de Viperes. Atmospheric, suspenseful and very well calculated for a future screen version, The Snakes looks at the damage caused by money-lust ... This is a novel full of mental as well as of physical violence, in which one man stands out ... With its graphic luxury and squalor, its scary characters and its grasp of psychology, The Snakes looks ideal for development into a TV series comparable with The Killing.