The House by the Cemetery — John Everson

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TITLE: The House by the Cemetery
AUTHOR: John Everson
RELEASES: October 6th, 2018; Flame Tree Press
GENRE: Horror
AGE RANGE: Adult

SYNOPSIS: Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead… she doesn’t intend to stay that way.

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I love haunted house stories, and I love haunted house attractions, so when I realized this was going to be a book about an actual haunted house being turned into an attraction, I was immediately sold. As someone who enjoys frequenting haunted house attractions every October, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t entertained the thought a few times—what if this house was really haunted? What if some of these people aren’t actors?

“Fuckin’ A,” Mike whispered to himself. “This is not a good house.”

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Unfortunately, The House by the Cemetery failed to live up to almost all of my expectations. This was my first time reading anything by John Everson, and I can’t say that I’ll be rushing to try any of his other works in the future. First, the writing style and I did not mesh at all. There is a consistent over-usage of ellipses that was extremely off-putting, and the general sentence structure in much of the narrative felt disjointed and unnatural.

Beyond the writing, while the book switches perspectives often, the primary main character is Mike, the handyman who’s been hired to make the old abandoned shack usable enough for a season as a haunted house. He starts off the book with a good head on his shoulders—he’s heard the stories and he’s incredibly reluctant to step foot in the place, much less desecrate it by ripping out walls and replacing floors.

He’s interesting enough for the first little bit, but then he meets Katie—a girl who, for the record, he establishes very early on is likely way too young for him—and he becomes so sex-crazed and lust-blinded that I couldn’t stand it. She constantly says and does strange things, but this grown man who should know better ignores them all because he’s so desperate to get in her pants. You see the “twist” with her character coming a million miles away, yet Mike somehow doesn’t predict it—and even when it’s revealed, his reaction is unlikely, to say the least.

The final issue I’ll mention is that this book needs a team of sensitivity readers desperately. For one, the incessant fat-shaming literally reaches eye-roll worthy levels at times because it’s so over the top. On top of that, there’s an entire discussion regarding horror’s treatment of women and people of color which could have been something great, but instead turned into a vaguely preachy “people need to stop victimizing themselves” session.

Honestly, though, if you follow my horror reviews, you already know that I rate the genre lightly at times—problematic content is not enough for me to immediately trash the entire story most of the time, so it’s not like this would have been a positive review without those things. While they absolutely didn’t help my enjoyment of the story, at the end of the day, I just found this to be a mediocre haunted house story with a lot of unlikable characters and an anti-climactic plot I couldn’t bring myself to care about. I tried really hard to finish it, but ultimately caved and wrote the story just past the halfway point.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Flame Tree Press for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

13 thoughts on “The House by the Cemetery — John Everson

  1. Damn it sounded interesting but I think it’s best if I stay away from this one even if the premise sounds good. I don’t think I can deal with some old guy who wants to get in some girl’s pants 🙄

    Like

  2. I liked this one a little more than you but everything you say is true. Mike is such a doofus blinded by lust and the appearance shaming was horrible.

    Like

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