The Steps, originally written by Latvian author Iveta Rēdliha and translated to English by Karina Loza, is a mystery thriller set up in a gothic style property, Bradbury.
A young boy finds out the truth about his real parentage and sets on a destructive mission to find his real mother. A young woman mourns the loss of her mother and moves to a new place where she meets a strange neighbor and feels a strong attraction for him. That’s the gist without spoilers. Now, let’s venture into the deep (still no spoilers).
The house, Bradbury, is like another character and has a backstory of its own.
The setting reminded me of classics like the castle from Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the air of mystery, the looming greed and jealousy in play, the obsessive natures of some characters.
The beginning and end of the book complete a cycle. The journey within is of a boy who grows into manhood knowing a secret that changes his mind and future forever.
Surrogacy and the resultant impact on the thus conceived and birthed offspring’s brain is a major theme in the book. The Steps explores the emotional trauma of a young boy finding out he is being raised in an orphanage though his parents are alive and that his ‘real’ mother is a surrogate.
His young impressionable mind picks on that point, and an obsessive love for the surrogate mother grows over the years.
Lucas, the boy, grows into a handsome young man but has a creepy nature and likes sneaking up on his neighbor (for a reason we find out later) and has blue eyes. Those eyes match the description of another character appearing later in the book and give us the first clue that something is off.
The character of Lucas is meant to induce some sympathy from the readers owing to his background and the tragedy involved with his birth and youth.
The female lead Reyna is more of an anchoring presence and is merely there for the sake of plot development.
The conflict appears in two parts.
First one is in the form of a backstory. The surrogate’s irresponsible action and the parents’ behavior, the housekeeper’s protectiveness, a clash of morals and unjustifiably selfish actions, all of that create a decent conflict. The unpleasant natures of the characters show up quite abruptly at times, some predictable and a few surprising secrets are revealed, and the backstory merges with the main storyline.
The climaxes and ending are well rounded and leave a feel of shock and surprise with a touch of sadness. The epilog includes a beautiful poem by Paul Valery which the author has mentioned in this interview with Linda Parkinson-Hardman as her inspiration for the title.
As referred to in the blurb, The Steps was born out of the writer’s imagination and built on inspiration from gothic love and detective novels. The gothic elements are there.
But my main complaint would be the formatting and translation which many say we shouldn’t talk about in the reviews. I could tell from the book that the original piece would have been far more enjoyable.
Much of the beauty of description was lost in translation, and the odd formatting made it difficult to read through dialogs. The expressions used in English instead of the original language weren’t enough to build an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.
Not all translations can bring the feel and essence of the original book but I am glad that I read this book.
All in all The Steps by Ms. Iveta Rēdliha is a decent piece of tragic mystery-thriller with sufficient tension, and suspense maintained throughout the book. It makes me wish I could understand Latvian and read the original work.
Iveta Redliha (b. 1977) is a Latvian writer. With great passion she unravels in writing destinies of people of different walks of life, and their entangled feelings. “The Steps” was born out of the writer’s imagination and built on inspiration from gothic love and detective novels.