Monday, April 13, 2015

Debut novel from Brendan Duffy is Beautiful and Unsettling.

April 14 New Release
I may as well confess. I love being scared. It's exhilarating. But not a lot scares me. I have to believe it could happen to me. That the horror is real. In House of Echoes,  Brendan Duffy has written my kind of story. 

Ben Tierney travels to upstate New York to settle his grandmother's estate. While he was out viewing the ramshackle home, he spots The Crofts- a grand home settled in between two mountains on a thousand acres overlooking the town of Swannhaven. And it's for sale. 

Ben immediately thinks of the possibilities.  The place could be a magnificent inn. He can work on his stalled novel, maybe get some ideas from the area. Claudia can focus on renovations instead of  her failed bank and struggles with Bipolar Disorder.  Charlie will have a safe place to play, an important thing for the bullied eight year old. It's a great plan. But The Crofts and Swannhaven are much more than they appear.

 As Ben uncovers the tragic history of the town, he scraps his unfinished novel and starts a new one. The story of the Swanns, the founding family of Swannhaven. There's a big story there, but one piece of it eludes him and he's getting the feeling that it's not only important to his novel, but to his family. Ben Teirney is descended from one of The Winter Families, which is a very big deal in Swannhaven. What it means to him and his family, Ben doesn't know.

The setting of the story may be the best character in the book. Duffy slowly but surely builds a perfect picture of impending doom. The partially renovated grand estate, a mysterious presence in the deep woods,fires, a nor'easter that dumps two feet of snow and closes the road to The Crofts. Nothing missing, nothing extra, just right.

This novel has the usual Gothic setting and themes, but the naive and beautiful young girl lured into a dangerous liaison with evil has been replaced by - I shouldn't say. Spoilers, you know. 

I give Duffy's debut novel 5 stars, for a beautifully written horror/suspense novel that  impressed me with its plausibility. By the end, I had forgotten the Tierney's weren't real people. I was afraid for them, afraid of Swannhaven. At the end of the novel, I thought back to it's first lines:

            "It is over now, sister, but for how long?"

I wonder that, too.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House/Ballantine for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.