Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: Devil House by John Darnielle

by John Darnielle
Release Date: January 25, 2022
2022 MCD
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-0374212230
Audiobook: B094DW38WN
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.75 / 5 Stars

Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That's what his mother always told him.

Now, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success--and movie adaptation--to his name, along with a series of subsequent lesser efforts that have paid the bills but not much more. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: To move into the house--what the locals call "The Devil House"--in which a briefly notorious pair of murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected 1980s teens. He begins his research with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected--back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.
My Thoughts
Devil House is definitely not what I expected.  To be fair, the summary basically describes what the book is about, quite well actually, so the fault probably lies with me as I was expecting something more along the lines of 'creepy house' vibes and everything that goes along with that where I actually got a disjointed murder mystery that sort of looped around to something the main character wrote about when he was younger with a chapter thrown in the middle about a kingdom.  And if that didn't make sense, well, welcome to the club.

First of all, I do appreciate what the author was trying to do in this book and I did like his writing style which could be engaging, with this slight sarcasm to his style of voice.  The book was separated into their own unique little stories and as always, I just went along for the ride, expecting the threads would all come together at some point.  But they never did and all it did was leave confusion and disappointment behind them.  And for the life of me, I still can't figure out why this one section was included; and as an older reader, I had to abandon the ARC hardcover I got, switch to my Kindle so I could change the font to be able to read it, which left me quite annoyed as I realized I could have just skipped over it and saved myself a lot of grief as it was completely irrelevant.  

To be quite honest, up to a certain section of the book, I actually thought the book was interesting even if there was little to no horror elements in it.  The section about the young teacher was particularly interesting to me although I didn't really understand her actions no matter how sympathetic the author tried to make me feel.  But that one section with the boys just threw me right out of the book and I just couldn't get back into it no matter what happened, and the ending just cemented the letdown as I was, You've got to be kidding me!  

As mentioned above, there were some good elements in this book: the details about the home were quite interesting; the investigations into the various crimes were fascinating; and I especially liked the author's descriptions about crime and true crime story telling, the basis of this book, and the difficulties of doing so.  To be honest, I would have enjoyed received this message far more if the story telling in this book wasn't so convoluted.  I get what the author was trying to do in the end, but man, it was hard to get there.

Devil House was definitely not what I was expecting, but I think the fault was mine more than the summary of the book as I took far more meaning from the title than what we were given.  The writing style was quite interesting, but the actual plot was a bit convoluted and messy.  However, months later, I am still thinking about this book which makes me wonder what actually caught my attention (whereas other I have to look at my notes to remember them), so I may actually re-read it with a different mindset and see if my opinion changes.  It has given me a lot to think about.