After several recommendations, I decided to give British author Adam Nevill a try. I settled on APARTMENT 16 because I couldn’t resist the lure of an evil force inhabiting a vacant apartment inside an aging London complex.
The story centers around Apryl, a young woman from America who’s traveled to London to handle the affairs of her Aunt Lillian who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Lillian had become a recluse, rarely venturing more than a few blocks from her apartment within Barrington House. As Apryl sets about trying to sell the stuff that has accumulated over the years, she discovers her aunt’s diary relating the troubles she and her husband had with an eccentric artist named Hessen who lived in apartment 16. The artist’s only surviving pieces were some rough sketches of his nightmarish vision. He was a man obsessed with the hideous and deformed. She also relates how, after Hessen’s mysterious disappearance, some force began preventing her from traveling more than short distances from Barrington House. This spurs Apryl to begin investigating Hessen and what happened to him.
The other primary viewpoint character of this novel is Seth, a down-on-his-luck, mild-mannered security officer and amateur artist who works at Barrington House. Seth begins seeing a strange, disfigured boy in a hooded sweatshirt who shows him disturbing things. Seth’s life takes a hellish turn as the boy and his dark master begin to break him down and force him to do their bidding.
Each chapter of the novel switches off between these two characters, with an occasional glimpse into one of the other side characters. Apryl’s chapters were my favorite. She delves into the sorted history of Hessen with his short-lived, self-published magazine and the secret society of enthusiast obsessed with him and his warped ideology. Seth’s chapters were good, but they lacked the same consistent, forward momentum of Apryl’s.
I would definitely recommend APARTMENT 16 to horror fans, and I look forward to reading more work from Adam Nevill in the future.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan