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Publisher's Summary

To Florence Hackett and her daughters Elinor and Louisa, Richard Baurie, a handsome young bookstore clerk and aspiring poet, seems a little odd but harmless enough. With his amusing conversation and his eager-to-please attitude, Richard works his way into the Hacketts' confidence until he is almost one of the family. When he suggests they rent Wisteria Cottage, a charming seaside residence, it seems to promise a summer of pleasant companionship and fun. 

What the Hacketts don't know is that Richard is a deeply troubled individual, recently released from a mental institution, and that their relaxing summer holiday will soon turn into a terrifying nightmare....

A brilliant psychological examination of criminal insanity, Robert M. Coates's Wisteria Cottage (1948) earned rave reviews on its initial publication and was adapted for the 1958 film noir Edge of Fury

"A brilliant tour de force." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Top peaks of terror...a grade-A psycho-thriller!" (Saturday Review)

"As direct and frightening as the uncoiling of a serpent." (Commonwealth)

©1948 Robert M. Coates (P)2020 Valancourt Books LLC

What listeners say about Wisteria Cottage

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  • Overall
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Wisteria Cottage

This was a really good read.A man on a beach changes lives.He is crazy,he knows it,it just takes his victims a bit longer to figure him out.I am still not sure of the ending. Tim Sailer was a fantastic narrator!I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.' 

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the writing style makes it worth your time

As per the book description, this is a story about a man whose mental health issues lead to tragedy. The story was originally published in the late 1940s but the author did a fine job of settling me comfortably into that era. We also get to hear the thoughts and much (but not all) of the backstory of the antagonist, whose mind is like an out-of-tune piano.

I'm thinking about why I liked this story, and the concepts of dissonance and attribution keep popping into my head. We, the audience, see the various characters engage in various behaviours. We interpret and judge those behaviours from our perspective of right and wrong, and we make judgements about the characters based on their actions. People do that all the time, it's human nature. But here we have our antagonist. From his perspective, everything he feels and does makes sense and is reasonable. He has complete confidence in his assessment of other people's characters, he thinks he's the smartest person in the room. But his interpretation and assessment isn't based on empathy, because he lacks empathy. For the first part of the book, it's uncomfortable for us to see his flawed rationalizations because much of his outward behaviour is within the boundaries of social norms. As the story progresses and he experiences his increased paranoia/psychotic break, though, his rationalizations become more warped and his outward behaviour becomes a heck of a lot more anti-social. And yet, he rationalizes everything, even extreme violence. And what he can't rationalize, he blocks out. There are lots of books and movies about psychotic criminals, but those antagonists are fully immersed in their psychosis. The compelling thing about this story is that for much of the story, the antagonist was functional and everyone around him thought he was perfectly fine (or maybe just a bit eccentric). Because we read the book blurb and because we could see his thought processes, we recognized the signs of the psychotic break much faster than most of the other characters in the story. Like watching a horror movie, we know that the murderer is hiding in the closet but the victim doesn't know it yet. Part of the excitement is anticipating the moment when the victim realizes that he/she is suddenly in big trouble.

The author's writing style is excellent and complements the plot and pacing perfectly. Some authors are great storytellers, they are able to make their stories come alive.

The only reason why I deducted a star is because it's discouraging to think that this story might reinforce the belief in some people's minds that people with paranoid schizophrenia are psycho killers. I personally know someone with paranoid schizophrenia and I'm infinitely more concerned about the possibility of her harming herself rather than the people around her.

The narrator is perfect for this type of story. I don't know if this is his natural narration style, but it is very effective for this type of story. I sped up the playback speed slightly to suit my preferences. (A side note: I'm so glad that my audiobook player allows me to change the narration speed - it makes a world of difference when it comes to my listening enjoyment. If I listened to this audiobook at regular 1.0 speed, I might have given the narrator less stars in this review. The playback speed adjustment button is your friend!!)

I was provided this book upon my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Insanely Brilliant!! (Emphasis on "insane)

Are you even kidding me? Where has this gem been hiding? Someone needs to talk to a movie producer about making this into a suspense/horror flick ASAP.
A brilliant psychological examination of insanity told in a slightly dizzying, lilting, even rhyming, rat-a-tat-tat sort of prose (ingeniously narrated by Tim Sailer) that puts you so solidly in Richard's poetically twisted mind that things feel almost dreamlike as the gently violent mayhem unravels.
I started to wonder if I was a little schizophrenic myself, as I could relate to some of his bizarrely dangerous thoughts that, of course, make absolutely perfect sense in the tilted world of a paranoid schizophrenic.
It's such a calm and gentle book, told by a calm and gentle man (a la Norman Bates who "couldn't hurt a fly") yet the frightening insanity behind it is like a background buzz shortening your breath as brief flashbacks hint that things have not ended well.
This book is INCREDIBLE. It was written in 1948, which is when authors delicately wove their tales around madness, building suspense quietly rather than flinging it in your face. If you enjoy things like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Psycho, The Tenant, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Repulsion, Misery, then you will love this gem.
(Apparently a movie called Edge of Fury from 1958 is a film based on this book. I just know it hasn't done it justice though.)
Tim Sailer, the narrator, is a master of his craft. This book cannot have been easy to read for the interesting and challenging way the prose is laid down, but, oh, I imagine Tim had a lot of fun once he decided to really wear Richard's character like a cloak.
Tim, thank you for reading this book so well!! I will seek out more of your work. I was truly blown away by this unexpected gem.
I was provided this book upon my request and have voluntarily left this review.