Brendan Duffy’s fantastic debut novel is gloomy, small-town Gothic horror in the vein of “Twin Peaks,” Alan Wake and The Shining.
After a few rough years in Manhattan, a “semi-famous” author named Ben Tierney relocates his wife and sons to a remote village in the Adirondack Mountains. He hopes that renovating a sprawling, neglected estate called the Crofts and turning it into an inn will provide his family with a new sense of purpose. But isolated on a forested cliff overlooking town, it doesn’t take long for things to get thoroughly weird.
Deer carcasses appear on the Tierneys’ property, the remains ripped apart and barely recognizable. Strange artifacts turn up in the estate’s cavernous cellar, maps and letters and ancient books. Townspeople stare and whisper about “the winter families” whenever Ben ventures down into the valley. And one night, while Ben’s wife is cooking dinner, an explosive sound vibrates through the house. Ben finds a back door swinging open and shut in the wind, the lock smeared with tree sap.
“He turned on the exterior lights and looked out the glass. Placed in the center of the stoop like the morning’s newspaper was a severed deer’s head, staring at him with black, blood-flecked eyes.”
Most disturbing of all, Ben’s older son Charlie is convinced that someone, or something, is watching them from the woods. As a neo-Gothic horror novel, House of Echoes succeeds because it contains no familiar creatures. There are no ghosts here, despite some surface similarities to Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers. There are no witches or werewolves. Duffy knows that true horror has neither name nor face. Grounded by emotional realism and nuanced characters, House of Echoes is intense, addictive and genuinely creepy.
FICTION: MYSTERY & SUSPENSE
House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy (Ballantine)