Nicely unnerving prose
For those who take pleasure in macabre stories, with enough twists to keep you looking over your shoulder right to the very end.
UPON cracking open House Of Furies by American writer Madeleine Roux, author of the bestselling Asylum series, I was transported back to my childhood when I used to obsessively listen to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1962 record, Ghost Stories For Young People (tinyurl.com/Star2Hitchcock).
Over the hiss and crackle of that vinyl LP, the Master of Suspense would instruct me to turn out the lights and close the curtains. And much to the chagrin of my older brother, I would gleefully plunge our bedroom into pitch-black darkness.
After a few stories like The Haunted And The Haunters and The Helpful Hitchhiker, he would turn the lights on again as he commanded me to stop the record, or he’s run from our room.
Between chilling tales of the supernatural, Hitchcock mused about what made people feel fear and horror, things like the scream of a young girl on a summer evening or the fluttering of a bird’s wings in a closed room.
That feeling of encroaching terror is infused throughout House Of Furies, a wickedly delightful book about Louisa Rose Ditton, a somewhat strange girl who finds employment with the Devil, and who is the narrator of this gothic story.
It’s set in the north of England in 1810, and right from the start we know that Louisa is working for the Devil. She’s been run out of her village because of her fortune telling (and thievery) but she finds employment as a maid at Coldthistle House.
It’s a large domicile that serves
House Of Furies Author:
as a boarding house for rogues, villains and crooks that are all inexplicably drawn to stay there. “They come here to die,” the book cover warns.
Anyone would be appalled that these guests are destined for murder, and so Louisa attempts to stop the impending carnage. She is particularly moved by a sweet young man named Lee, whom she’s certain has committed no heinous crime in his short life.
Still, if a member of a hotel’s staff – much less a boarding house maid – approached you to warn you that the Devil has summoned you there to kill you, well, you would think that person was quite mad.
On top of that, there is a book within the book. Entries from Rare Myths And Legends: The Collected Findings Of HI Morningside detail Mr Morningside’s discoveries of faeries and creatures of the occult around the world.
He describes the incredible lengths he goes to in pursuit of the truth, headed by sinister watercolour paintings of the beings in his tales. With these macabre creatures staring fitfully at us, you’ll feel the urge to read as quickly as you can just to turn to page for more.
Beyond Roux’s unnerving prose, House Of Furies separates its chapters with more images of what might have been on the wall of that aged Victorian house, including scads of pictures of people, landscapes, and old-world objects. Everything is shown in a cold black and blue, and slightly out of focus so that it obscures what you think you’re looking at.
These touches make House Of Furies a treasure and a marvel. The thought put into the design of the book gives it an ominous feel, and makes it perfect for reading about liars and murderers who meet untimely and gruesome ends.
My one complaint is small: The prologue begins in 1810 as Louisa tells us of her new job and employer, but a jump back to 1809 in the first chapter of the book means we have awhile to get back to the real beginning of the story.
Her tale of transformation from runaway child procuring pennies by theft and crystal gazing to gainful work means there is a lot of “No, you can’t be the Devil” and “Wait, you are the Devil” to “You must be wrong about these people in your house” and “You’re not wrong about them”.
These are necessary steps in Louisa’s journey, but they slow down her gripping tale. As House Of Furies unfolds, the dread and the fright comes faster and the deaths more furious.
Roux’s writing has a cinematic feel and she excels in conjuring pictures of startling and shocking imagery, from a murder of ravens with their black feathers and yellow eyes hunting for Louisa, to occult rituals that ferry lost souls to hell.
House Of Furies won’t be everyone’s chalice of blood, but it’s perfect for those who take pleasure in macabre stories, with enough twists to keep you looking over your shoulder right to the very end.
horror Madeleine Roux Harper Teen, young adult