Thursday, April 30, 2015

House of Echoes

Duffy, B. (2015). House of Echoes. NY: Ballantine Books.

Adult / Horror / Suspense

I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars

In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family’s dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare.

Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school.

When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over.

House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole. -- Book jacket summary, House of Echoes

Ominous. That is the word that best fits the pervading feeling that steadily builds as readers work their way through House of Echoes. The story felt familiar, but I didn't put my finger on it until I finished it -- it was reminiscent of the 70s book Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon, and that's a good thing.  This is a horror story not because of shock and gore (though there is some) but because of the heaviness upon the reader that something terribly bad is coming. Readers don't know if the source will be man or beast or even the supernatural, and Brendan Duffy does a good job planting seeds of possibility for all of the above.

Where Duffy is at his best writing is in the world building and atmosphere he creates, which are enough to carry the slow moving plot to the climax of the story and a resolution that absolutely fits with the rest of the story. There are interesting parallels between the changes in the settings and feel of the story. (Especially with the snow storms.) Those who read carefully will get so much more out of this book than those who hurry to get an ending. Reveals are sometimes very subtle and easily missed by readers trying to rush the pace.  This is not a fast-paced book, and that is completely by design, I believe.  

The story is told primarily from Ben's point of view, which allows readers to get to know him better than other characters; however, some chapters are from Charlie's point of view, and there is a smattering of historical letters that were written by one of the former occupants of the Crofts, the house and lands where Ben and his family are living and which they are restoring.  These variations add layers to the story that would be lost if told from just one perspective.  There was one chapter, oddly told from the police chief's point of view, which revealed important information but didn't really fit with the rest of the story, and that was about my only complaint.

Sensitive readers be warned -- there are considerable animal mutilations that are pretty graphically described. Beyond that, the book is amazingly clean with only very mild language, no sexual situations, and loads of creepiness. 

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley, who provided me an eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

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