I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson
Series: Molly Southbourne #1
Published by Tor.com on October 3 2017
Genres: Adult, Horror
Buy on Amazon
The nitty-gritty: Strange and horrific, I loved this novella, even though it’s still giving me nightmares.
Once, while they are sweating together, a molly appears in the doorway and joins them. It does not go bad while the three of them make love, and Molly kills it with regret and an ice pick the next morning.
This was one strange little story, and not what I was expecting at all. After reading and loving Thompson’s Rosewater, a story about alien contact, I eagerly requested his latest, a novella from the highly acclaimed Tor.com line. The Murders of Molly Southbourne is disturbing and violent (the cover hints at what’s between the covers) and spooky, mostly because the reader is left in the dark for most of the story. The mystery of what’s actually going on with Molly Southbourne is what drives this tale, and even near the end when we get some vague scientific answers, I still wasn’t sure what had happened. But that’s OK. This novella is more about the experience than the resolution.
The story opens with the first person observations of a girl who wakes up to find herself chained to a wall, drenched in blood, with no memories of what happened to her. Soon another girl enters the room, a girl who introduces herself as Molly Southbourne, and strangely, she looks exactly like the chained girl.
Molly has a very important story to tell this girl. Molly Southbourne is only a child when she sees her first “molly,” an exact replica of herself who appears in front of her one day. When she tells her parents about the girl, they explain to her that every time she bleeds, a molly is created. The mollys seem harmless at first, but later they turn on Molly and try to kill her. So begins Molly’s real education: her parents begin to train her to not only prevent the mollys from appearing (“Don’t bleed.”) but how to clean up after them when they do appear (“Blot, burn and bleach”). Unfortunately for Molly, when she reaches puberty, she has a whole other set of problems crop up, and you can imagine her dismay when her mother informs her that she will bleed regularly every month, and yes, that blood will also create mollys. And so her childhood consists of fighting and killing the rogue mollys and getting rid of the evidence. It’s a rough life, but it’s all Molly’s ever known.
When Molly is old enough to leave home, she insists that she can handle the mollys without her parents. But away at college, things quickly spiral out of control. Molly is finally ready to solve the mystery of why the mollys keep appearing, and she even meets someone who is willing to help her with that task. But when she finally discovers the truth, it’s stranger and more terrible than she ever imagined.
For a story about a girl whose blood creates doppelgangers, this was suitably creepy. There isn’t a whole lot more I can say about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil the surprises. But I did enjoy the odd nonchalance that Molly and her parents feel towards what’s happening to her. There is one scene in particular between Molly and her father that was rather disturbing. Molly is very young, and her father has taken her out to the barn to show her how to dismember a pig. What disturbed me about this scene wasn’t the dismemberment, but the fact that Molly took this weird instruction from her father completely in stride. Obviously, he’s teaching her how to dispose of a body (as parents do…), so when she’s older and starts having to kill the mollys herself, she’ll know what to do.
And that’s the just the beginning. This story is filled with strange and disturbing images and occurrences. It also occurred to me as I was reading that Molly’s parents obviously know what’s going on, but Molly never asks and never seems to care about the details. Eventually, though, she discovers a letter from her mother that explains things – sort of. At this point the story turns on a dime from horror to science fiction and the reader is left with some new and horrifying information, but no resolution.
Luckily, Thompson is continuing the story in at least one more installment (Goodreads only gives a tentative title and no release date), and I find myself overly anxious to discover what happens next. If you haven’t read Tade Thompson yet, then I highly recommend you jump on the bandwagon soon. Rosewater made me a fan of his, and now The Murders of Molly Southbourne has put him on my “must read” list. For fans of horror-mystery-science fiction and just plain weirdness, this is one novella that shouldn’t be missed.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.