Sunday, June 18, 2023

Review: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

by Johnny Compton
Release Date: February 7, 2023
2023 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 261 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250841414
Audiobook: B0B64F1RSR
Genre: Fiction / Horror/ Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Eric Ross is on the run from a mysterious past with his two daughters in tow. Having left his wife, his house, his whole life behind in Maryland, he’s desperate for money–it’s not easy to find safe work when you can’t provide references, you can’t stay in one place for long, and you’re paranoid that your past is creeping back up on you.

When he comes across the strange ad for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, Eric thinks they may have finally caught a lucky break. The Masson property, notorious for being one of the most haunted places in Texas, needs a caretaker of sorts. The owner is looking for proof of paranormal activity. All they need to do is stay in the house and keep a detailed record of everything that happens there. Provided the house’s horrors don’t drive them all mad, like the caretakers before them.

My Thoughts
The Spite House drew me because of its cover and because it was labelled southern gothic horror. I am unashamedly attracted to stories about haunted houses, curses, secrets, and ghosts.  To be honest, I was looking forward to a creepy kind of story, something for which I was in the mood, but this is not really what I got.  Personally, I think this was more in the nature of a paranormal fiction story with a bit of mystery, and I while I enjoyed to a point, I did start to lose interest around the halfway mark as the story slowed down and meandered along its merry way without a lot of tension or suspense.  
At first, I found the characters interesting as I didn't know a lot about them other than they were running away from a situation in Maryland.  I admired Dess, the older daughter, who was developing a bit of a rebellious streak, tired of running away, but understanding the stakes nonetheless, wanting not to help out her dead with their financial situation.  Stacy, who was having some paranormal episodes, was also interesting, as I figured a lot of what was happening must be centered around her. Both Stacy and Dess were complex and well-developed, one of the reasons I continued reading. I also liked their family dynamics, how they took care of each other, and how they made decisions together knowing how much of an impact those decisions would have on the other. The reader however, didn't really have a full understanding of what was happening for quite a while, something I didn't mind as I dislike it when an author has to feed you everything; I like trying to figure out what is happening as I am reading.
At first, the plot sounded quite interesting. Live in a haunted house for a year, make a lot of money, and record what you see and hear. My kind of thing.  In fact, I would like to know where those jobs are as I would want a job like that.  This is where the story started to get bogged down. Personally, I wanted more action inside the house, more descriptions of the house, more of the house.  Yes, we get a lot of history about the house, and although it was interesting, I wanted more suspense, terrifying suspense of the house, and I didn't really get that.  The super creepy stories and suspense surrounding the house did not morph into anything super creepy or scary in the story. 

The Spite House had a lot of potential as the house itself was pretty creepy and it was surrounded by a lot of secrets and elements that should have added layers of suspense.  However, while the main characters were well-developed and complex, I didn't feel the same way about the secondary characters, and I thought the plot meandered quite a bit, lowering the tension and the suspense to the point where I was losing interest.  And while I like the idea of a haunted house with a history like this, I would never take my kids there to live, and knowing the secret that Erik carried about his family, I am not sure why he would even choose to do something like that, it just seems implausible. I do think this is a book that you need to read for yourself to see what you think. As for me, while I did think there was a lot of potential for a bad-ass book here and it definitely had its moments, a meandering plot with a lack of tension and suspense did not quite do it for me.


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