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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - Re­view by D.L. PHILIPS star2@thes­

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 (­cock).

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

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