Saturday, February 11, 2023

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

by Grady Hendrix
Release Date: January 17, 2023
2023 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 419 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593201268
Audiobook: B09LK9S2WL
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Most of all, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…
My Thoughts
How to Sell a Haunted House has everything I would expect from a Grady Hendrix novel,  but while the previous novels seemed to be missing that little something, this one seemed to capture a lot of the things I like about haunted houses, even if it didn't really fit the bill of what I consider a haunted house mystery as it focused more on object possession.  It was fun, with a bunch of quirky characters that I enjoyed, even if I didn't really like all of them, witty dialogue, and a bunch of creepy dolls and puppets. I don't really have too many triggers when I read, but honestly, dolls and puppets could be at the top of a very short list.
For the most part, I enjoyed the characters as I thought they each had their own distinct personalities so it was easy to figure out who was who and how they fit into the story.  I wasn't a huge fan of either Louise or Mark, but preferred Mark as I felt sorry for him.  Louise just turned me right off as she was so judgmental of everyone, very condescending.  I think I was supposed to garner sympathy for her when I learned more about her background, but unfortunately, the damage was done, and I just couldn't, although I did understand the reasons behind her behaviour as I read. For whatever reason, I was rooting for Mark, and I honestly was on tenterhooks only because I didn't want him to bite it.  

The story itself was fairly predictable, but the author definitely included some twists and turns I wasn't expecting which made it fun to read.  The witty dialogue, and the dolls and puppets made it easy to get lost in the story line, and I decided to just enjoy it for what it was, even if I was, for a quick moment, disappointed that it wasn't necessarily a haunted house story, but more of a possession story. I did think the author was really good at showing how there are always two sides to a story, and how easy it is to form a judgment when you only have the one side.  There were a few times I had to adjust my thinking and understood how I was being manipulated by the author. The author doesn't re-invent the scary puppet or scary doll trope, but I am super fascinated by how people change behind a mask, or when they assume a different persona, and I think the author showed this very well in this book.  Personally, 'Pupkin' was very annoying, but I was also fascinated by this puppet as well, wondering how you separate the doll from the actor.  

How to Sell a Haunted House was a campy, fun horror mystery focused more on possession than on a haunted house.  While I did think it was predictable, and the pacing was sometimes off, there were some great moments that were fun and enjoyable to read, which made it even more startling when the scarier stuff started happening, something I really enjoyed as I want to be scared.  However, I didn't find this book particularly frightening or scary.  If you do get scared easily, or get creeped out by dolls or puppets, this one will probably be scary for you.  I do prefer my haunted house stories to be creepier, but this was a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some good, campy fun.