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How to Sell a Haunted House


Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted House
average rating is 3 out of 5

Horror, Thriller, Supernatural

R. Alex Jenkins

This is my third Grady Hendrix book and I'm still not sure if I enjoy his writing style. It's different to conventional horror and more like soap opera terror due to how trashy it is. There's something comic about it that I don't quite get?

Fluidity isn't the problem, but plausibility. Also, there's too much banter between characters, which often feels like filler more than plot as you want to move on instead of repeating and regurgitating again and again.

Shirley Jackson this definitely is not because of how it deals with action in an unbelievable way. I threw my book down in irritation because of the endless bickering between Mark and Louise as domestic drama with a haunted house element rather than well-researched horror with a plausible plot.

On the one hand you've got an attempt to create serious relationships between characters, the next a totally unbelievable haunted puppet scenario that's hard to buy into 😫.

Going back to the Shirley Jackson comparison. The psychological concept of terror exists in the mind until you're sent over the edge. Madness, not physical, but here we have magic puppets, invisible dogs that are actually tangible and madcap spirits that directly maim and hurt.

I couldn't grasp the juxtaposition between the two: serious family matters interspersed with a comedic and overly jokingly puppet menace?

And why are they selling the house in the first place? To get the money, of course, but if things get that bad and you're risking the life of family because of it, walk away! There are too many contradictions and reverses in feelings and priorities. Louise's daughter is the most important thing in her life, but suddenly isn't, reverse focusing on the money again instead of her mental health. I suppose when you can't walk away from a cash cow you can't, but it's annoying storytelling.

This is the sort of book you buy in an airport, read on the plane and give away at the other end.

But so what you might say if it's an entertaining story and a compulsive thriller? But that's exactly it, Grady Hendrix doesn't do action well enough and isn't a believable horror writer because of it. The transition from backstory to action leaves too many unbelievable circumstances without giving enough thought about whether the situation is likely.

It veers too far away from the Stephen King ethic of 'am I cheating the reader and therefore should I proceed?'. By writing in the horror genre, you're asking people to believe in your vision and put faith in your plausibility and research or write you off as unrealistic, and that's how I feel about Grady Hendrix right now as a writer of trash horror. He cheats too often and diminishes immersion because of it.

Haunted House captures your attention then bounds off like a startled jack rabbit, making is hard to tolerate in the same way as The Final Girl Support Group, which is equally untethered and ludicrous. We Sold Our Souls, on the other hand, is a good book and I recommend it, so it's not all bonkers unreality from Grady Hendrix.

If you can disregard these doubts and suspend belief long enough and have fun with it, you'll probably enjoy this frivolous entertainment, but I couldn't, in the same way that I can't accept a train coming off its racks at 90° and carrying on with zero damage to the undercarriage like in the Fast and Furious movies!

I don't want to sound too negative and I had lots of fun here but just a middling three stars from me.

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