the house at midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

This was another birthday gift from the ever-generous Book Fairy (she spoils me rotten, I swear) and is deliciously unsettling. A deceptively gently-paced psychological thriller/horror, the house at midnight is set and centred around a large old country manor, inherited by the protagonist’s best friend. Lucas – the best friend – loses his beloved uncle to suicide, and when he inherits his house and art collection, he insists to his close-knit circle of friends that they treat it as a home-from-home.

Joanna, the protagonist, has always wondered if there might have been more to the friendship with Lucas that began at university, and she is nervous about how his sudden bereavement and windfall might affect the dynamics of the group. How can it not change things between them? Still, she rocks up, along with everyone else, for New Year’s, and it seems that she and Lucas are as close as ever. There’s a weird vibe, about the house, though – something about the mural on the ceiling, or the settling noises of the house in the dark and the quiet…

The story takes place over the course of a year, and I did not want to read it after dark! It focuses more on the interpersonal than any overtly ‘boo ghosty’ or ‘argh violent’ type of horror narrative – I’ve always preferred that kind of horror, to be honest. Think Sixth Sense as opposed to Paranormal Activity kind of feeling.

Insidiously creepy and pleasurably unsettling, and full of interesting and flawed characters.

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