Mire House is dreary, dark, cold and infested with midges. But when Emma Dean inherits it from a distant relation, she immediately feels a sense of belonging.
It isn't long before Charlie Mitchell, grandson of the original owner, appears claiming that he wants to seek out his family. But Emma suspects he's more interested in the house than his long-lost relations.
And when she starts seeing ghostly figures, Emma begins to wonder: is Charlie trying to scare her away, or are there darker secrets lurking in the corners of Mire House?
Five months since her parents passed away, the bereaved, Emma Dean, inherits a house in West Fulford. "It was run down and drab and unkempt and unclean, but even so, something in it called to her. She could easily imagine this place filled with life, with parties, the distant laughter of children. [...] It was a shame—wrong, even—that somewhere so lovely should be locked up and abandoned." (p.10)
Pleased to have a project to occupy her thoughts, she sets about renovating the place, but though Emma means to make Mire House magnificent once more, it seems the house has other plans for its mawkish new occupant. Days into her stay she ends up locked in a closet in an ordeal that takes its toll on the whole of Alison Littlewood's sinister new novel.
It's only thanks to the intervention of Charlie—a distant relative who really should have inherited the house—that Emma sees the light of day again. But has he come to help her? Or are his designs rather darker?
Forty years before Emma's story, Frank Watts and his friends play a dangerous game on the property, tormenting its terrifying tenant: an old man who moved into Mire House many moons ago in the hope of having a family, but whose beloved wife died before she could give him children. Mr Owens has been on his own ever since—growing stranger by the day, so they say—to wit, when he catches Frank sneaking about his home, our boy expects a beating at the least. Instead, a bond of friendship forms between him and the formerly horrid householder... a bond that is tested when Frank's perpetually distressed mother gets wind of it.