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.
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.
The whodunnit and procedural elements of the book which stem from the mysterious car crash are tense and well-realized. But when not affecting elements of the central relationship—the police’s assumptions that Dan is with the less attractive Bea for her money; the memories of indiscriminate arrests he suffered as a teenager because of his skin color—these elements can detract from it ... Reading and enjoying this well-written thriller, there is nonetheless a feeling that a stealthier, less dangerous novel wants to emerge, shedding the skin of hot, stifling trips abroad—so rote now in fiction of every stripe—dodgy circumstances surrounding deaths, and police stations ... Bea’s struggle with her money, from being constantly aware of and apologetic for her privilege, to the ambiguous idea of its ethical use [is engrossing]. This could have been further explored had not so much literary oxygen been taken up with the whodunit, which is not especially surprising in its denouement, and an all-consuming escalation of pace.