This post uses affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more info.
“This is not a good house.”
The House by the Cemetery was a book that I wanted to adore with all the recipes of an interesting story: an abandoned, dilapidated house that is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a witch and the greedy hubris of a man to capitalize on the past to make a Halloween attraction of the haunted house. Unfortunately this book failed to live up to my expectations: the writing felt disjointed, the plot was predictable, the characters were one-dimensional, their decisions made no logical sense, and there were a number of plotholes in the book that constantly prohibited me from getting into the story.
The old house at Bachelor’s Grove has been abandoned and locked up for decades, local legends telling of the ghosts that haunt the place and rumors of ‘satanic rituals’ being done there. Perry worked out some deal with the county, which owns the house and property, to fix it up and turn it into a haunted house attraction. Perry brings in his carpenter friend Mike to do some safety renovations prior to the house being decorated and ready for guests. And honestly despite this being Perry’s brainchild, we see very little from him as a character, which I find weird.
The prologue was actually incredibly engaging and I was instantly sucked into the danger and mystery of the house; however, the further that the storyline progressed the less engaged I became as there seemed to be no clear plot or direction. The book is told in third person narrative and jumps perspectives a lot, which I think made it difficult to connect with the main character Mike… or anyone else. There isn’t any character development to be seen and there are a lot of moving parts in this that come together in the end, but I was constantly annoyed and frustrated to not have a dedicated POV. I also didn’t care at all about the “haunters” perspectives of decorating and preparing for opening the haunted house at all, although by the end I understood why it was included.
I was also quite bothered by the pervasive and constant passive fat shaming.
“The idea that he wasn’t eating was somewhat ludicrous. Ted weighed in at over 220 pounds, while she might have just been able to nudge the scale over 130… if she rocked up and down on it.”
Honestly every time that the book shifted to Jillie and Ted’s perspective the narrative seemed to revolve around his weight, how she can eat anything and essentially passively shaming him for eating french fries. And this goes absolutely unchallenged in the text. Before you assume that maybe it was just a poor characterization attempt for Jillie’s third person-POV, nope. When every character comes into contact with Emery, the descriptors for her are some adjective of “chunky.”
Extent of this offensive character trope spoiler
And I swear… when Ted dies his last words to Jillie were, and I freaking quote, “You can have my fries.” Those were the last words that he chose to utter before crossing over. JFC
The story picked up for me around 78% and was interesting to read, albeit predictable. I guessed early on what was going to happen overall, which in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean a low rating from me as I am a wide reader of the genre, but I was disappointed with how little the revelations mattered to the characters. There really was no conflict, no opposing viewpoints, and no character growth. Ultimately this is a run-of-the-mill haunted house story that had a lot of potential but missed the mark for me.
Just because this wasn’t for me doesn’t mean that it isn’t for you: If you like haunted house stories that are focused more on the horror than the characters, by all means give this one a try.
cw: fat shaming, gore, murder, dead animals, torture
A list of some spoiler-y plotholes that just didn’t make any sense:
1. Gonz disappears during his shift and his car remains at the house, yet no one is bothered that he essentially no-shows and is never heard from again.
2. The day that Gonz was missing, Mike’s perspective was talking about how Katie gave him blueballs the night before… but in the text he literally said that she didn’t show up and he left at 5:30.
3. The fact that there’s all these hidden areas in the house – a secret room behind bookshelves with the doors to the basement, the trapdoor in the attic… how tf would a contractor not notice that the house and its dimensions don’t match the actual space seen?
4. The fact that Katie told Mike she was dead and then Everson made the choice to skip perspectives around and never really addressed Mike’s response to that information.
Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an electronic advanced reader copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication. The House by the Cemetery was released on October 6, 2018.
You can find information about my rating criteria here.