Random House: 4/14/2015
eBook review copy, 400 pages
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.
House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy is a very highly recommended, delightfully chilling, creepy, and atmospheric novel with Gothic overtones that will hold your attention from the beginning to the end.
Ben and Caroline Tierney have bought the Crofts, an old stone mansion built in the 1700s near the village of Swannhaven in the mountains of remote upstate New York. They plan to turn it into a destination inn. They needed to leave the city and believe that fixing up and remodeling the old house will provide their family with the stability they all need. Ben is a novelist, so he's used to working from home. Caroline recently lost her banking job and has been going through depression and bi-polar disorder after the birth of their youngest son. The older son is 8 year old Charlie, who was being bullied in his school. After a horrific incident that had Charlie missing, Ben knows his family needs to get out of the city.
At first it seemed like the move was a good idea. Caroline seems to be feeling better and the renovations are moving swiftly along. Charlie is enjoying living in the country and exploring the woods surrounding the large estate. But there are also secrets being kept. Ben isn't talking about the dead animals he's finding - or the deer head left on a door step. Charlie isn't telling his parents about the "Watcher" he's interacting with in a strange game of tag in the woods. Caroline is hiding the fact that she is going off her medication and paranoia is starting to visit more frequently. Soon there is a palatable tension between family members.
As the family starts to interact with townspeople, Ben begins to explore the history of the Crofts, the town, and the Swann family. Interspersed between chapters are letters from the early settlers. You know that the Croft is not going to be the safe haven the Tierney's are seeking. The opening letter is dated December 23, 1777 and in it the young women writing to her sister says, "There are demons in us, Kathy. I see that now. Our blood is cursed, and doom haunts us always. It is too late for us, but I pray it is not too late for you."
Duffy moves the story along with excellent writing and character development in this well paced story. There is no huge, horrific incident, but plenty of mysterious incidents, dead animals, and unexplained noises to help slowly ratchet up the tension. The uncomfortable feeling that something awful is about to happen sneeks up on you gradually in this novel and is just as insidious and all encompassing as the wind that howls outside and through the cracks in the windows. You know something bad is going to happen, but you just don't know what form it is going to take. Is it going to be the weather, the weird villagers, a ghost, or something dark from the woods?
An excellent debut novel! Although I will admit to thinking about the Eddie Murphy skit on haunted houses, where he asked what was wrong with white people? Black people would just leave the house (especially once the head of a deer shows up on your front door step).
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.