I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and I recently came across one entitled “The House Next Door: a Ghost Story” by Darcy Coates. The blurb is as follows:
I live next to a haunted house.
I began to suspect something was wrong with the gothic building when its family fled in the middle of the night, the children screaming, the mother crying. They never came back to pack up their furniture.
No family stays long. Animals avoid the place. Once, I thought I saw a woman’s silhouette pacing through the upstairs room… but that seems impossible; no one was living there at the time.
A new occupant, Anna, has just moved in. I paid her a visit to warn her about the building. I didn’t expect us to become friends, but we did. And now that Marwick House is waking up, she’s asked me to stay with her.
I never intended to become involved with the building or its vengeful, dead inhabitant. But now I have to save Anna… before it’s too late for the both of us.
Introducing Nosy Neighbor Jo
The story takes place from the point of view of Jo, a woman who lives next door to the Marwick House, a home many claim is haunted. Anything planted in the front yard of the house dies, and there’s often a strange flickering off and on of the lights in the middle of the night. Jo’s three cats won’t even go near the place.
And then there’s the time when Jo was awakened by gunshots, followed by the current occupants of the Marwick House screaming then fleeing in the middle of the night (they never even came back for their belongings). And then there are all of the other families who fled the house, many after only a couple of months.
But one day, Jo notices that someone is moving in next door, and she can’t help but wonder who the next victim…er…..tenant of the house is.
Ever the nosy neighbor, Anna bakes some goodies and goes over to the Marwick House to introduce herself. She learns that the new occupant of the Marwick House is a secretive single woman named Anna, a self-employed doll maker who got an “unbelievable deal” on the house.
A friendship slowly develops between the two and Jo learns that Anna has some secrets of her own — dangerous ones.
The Hauntings Begin
It’s not too long afterward that strange things begin happening in the house: peculiar noises, music coming from the piano room, voices, whispering and lights coming on by themselves. But strangely enough, Anna doesn’t seem particularly bothered by them.
Anna and Jo learn more about the ghost and the past happenings at Marwick House in an attempt to understand what’s behind all the strange goings-on. From then, the novel takes a turn from being a simple haunted house story to a psychological thriller, with not only a ghostly villain but a human one as well.
Jo realizes that not only is her neighbor’s safety in jeopardy but hers as well — and it will take all of her willpower to save them both.
I thought that the author’s writing was clear and evocative and managed to get in the heads and hearts of Jo, Anna, and the ghosts. A lot of attention was placed on the malevolent atmosphere of the house and its effect on people, rendering the story even more spine-chilling.
I was a bit surprised how frightening the House Next Door ended up being, with the entire neighborhood being affected by an extremely powerful and scary ghost. In fact, everyone goes out of their way to avoid going near Marwick house or even discussing it.
I liked how the bits and pieces of both Anna and the ghost’s past slowly came together and snapped together, like the pieces of a puzzle. The plot, characterizations, and attention to detail were well executed and believable, and the original (and creepy) twists of the story kept me turning the page. The sign of a good book is when I find myself thinking about the story days after having read it, which was the case with The House Next Door.
My only niggle with the book was I did find it dragged in places, but it picked up as we headed toward the climactic ending. All in all, an engaging read, especially if you’re a fan of ghost stories. Recommended!
You can check out The House Next Door HERE