I can’t recall when Grady Hendrix and I had a conversation about everything I would love to see in a Horror novel, but the man must have been taking notes!!!
This story follows Louise Joyner and her brother, Mark. Louise lives in California, while her brother, Mark, still lives in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
The two siblings are not close. They basically only see each other, or talk really, when they are doing things with the rest of the family, like with their Mom, Dad, cousins, Aunts, etc. Otherwise, it’s a bit like cats and dogs.
So, when Louise receives a random call from Mark, she knows the news can’t be good and it’s not. It’s like the rug has been ripped out from under her.
Their parents were killed in an accident. Louise needs to come home right away. It’s devastating. She leaves Poppy with her ex, packs her things and boards a plane.
There’s so much to do, the funeral, the estate, but she doesn’t want to be dealing with any of it. She just wants to be alone, but unfortunately, when people die they leave things behind that have to be dealt with.
Her parents left a lot behind. Of course they did, they weren’t expecting to go anytime soon. They built an entire life in Charleston. They lived in the same house that Louise and Mark’s Mom grew-up in; decades and decades of stuff, memories, accumulating.
How can they get rid of all of that? Stressful! Adding fuel to the fire, there are unexpected turns, mainly involving the wills, that leave Louise and Mark even more at odds.
This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. It is for regular people with regular items that need to be dealt with, but what is kept within the walls of Louise and Mark’s childhood home isn’t exactly what you would call regular.
Their Mom was a puppeteer. She hand-made all of her own puppets; hundreds and hundreds of puppets. But even puppets need more friends, so there are dolls and odd taxidermy craft projects as well. Every room seems to have dozens of little eyes watching your every move.
From the moment Louise sets foot in the house, she feels like something is off. It’s giving her the creeps, she can hardly stand to be in there anymore. Memories overwhelm her. Disturbing incidents from her childhood. Was it just her imagination? Is it now?
Regardless of the vibe of the house, her and Mark want to prep it for sale. Both of them need the money. They need this done quick. They’ll have to work together.
I won’t say anything more about the plot of this novel, as I definitely recommend going into it knowing as little as possible. I didn’t really know what it involved when I started and I’m so glad.
I knew Haunted House, siblings and the fact that their parents had passed away. From that I expected to really enjoy this as I love Horror that explores grief, complicated family dynamics and of course, haunted houses.
This story does have all of that, but also much more. The surface level story is so engaging, yet this one runs deep. If you want to unpack it all, there’s a lot to explore.
Louise and Mark. Their relationship is so complicated. At first, I hated Mark. Not going to lie. I thought he was the biggest jerk to his sister and for no reason. He seemed spoiled to me and jealous of her.
As the story builds, you do get back story of their childhood and a lot of interesting things had happened to them; between them. I felt like after reading that stuff, Mark’s personality started to make a lot more sense.
I loved watching the evolution of their relationship as well. As they began to open up with one another and tried to understand the other’s perspective. I thought that was such a nicely done progression. I felt bad that it took the death of their parents for them to have those needed conversations.
It was dramatic. I also started to feel a certain way towards their parents and it wasn’t very charitable. I felt like they had sort of plagued their own children to grow up with certain issues because of the choices they had made.
This won’t make sense until you read the novel, but just trust, if you become as invested in this as I did, your emotions will run the full range before you are done. With emotional range in mind, I loved the clever section titles. Well played by Hendrix.
I can acknowledge that this book won’t be for everyone. I know that. It plays on certain tropes not everyone is going to love, but for me, this was a top-tier Horror story.
It was incredibly well-told with compelling characters, deep family issues and themes explored, as well as toe-curling imagery. This played off all of my childhood fears and let’s be frank, things I am still afraid of today, even as an adult.
I had moments where I had to walk away from it. It was scary to me. Seriously, there were nights when I had to put it down and read a palate cleansing book before I could even attempt to go to sleep. That’s a sign of a great story!
Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.
This was absolutely one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve found a new one to add to my ‘Favorites’ shelf!!