Kate’s Review: “The Spite House”

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Book: “The Spite House” by Johnny Compton

Publishing Info: Tor Nightfire, February 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Eric Ross is on the run from a mysterious past with his two daughters in tow. Having left his wife, his house, his whole life behind in Maryland, he’s desperate for money–it’s not easy to find safe work when you can’t provide references, you can’t stay in one place for long, and you’re paranoid that your past is creeping back up on you.

When he comes across the strange ad for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, Eric thinks they may have finally caught a lucky break. The Masson property, notorious for being one of the most haunted places in Texas, needs a caretaker of sorts. The owner is looking for proof of paranormal activity. All they need to do is stay in the house and keep a detailed record of everything that happens there. Provided the house’s horrors don’t drive them all mad, like the caretakers before them.

The job calls to Eric, not just because there’s a huge payout if they can make it through, but because he wants to explore the secrets of the spite house. If it is indeed haunted, maybe it’ll help him understand the uncanny power that clings to his family, driving them from town to town, making them afraid to stop running. A terrifying Gothic thriller about grief and death and the depths of a father’s love, Johnny Compton’s The Spite House is a stunning debut by a horror master in the making.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I love seeing what other horror reviewers and horror minded people are all abuzz about. It’s a nice way to get the fingers on the pulse, and while I’ve had success and failings when it comes to following these trends, I really do like to try and cast a wide net for titles on various social media and online platforms. This is how I came upon Johnny Compton’s “The Spite House”, a debut horror novel about a strange and haunted house that a family moves into. The owner has secrets, but so does the family, consisting of Eric and his daughters Dess and Stacy. All of this combined with the hype made me pretty excited for this book. But I can solidly say that this one was pretty mixed for me.

But I will start with what worked first! Compton really knows how to amp up the suspense factor in this book, in two different ways. The first way is the obvious suspense, which is about the haunted Spite House. I loved some of the really freaky ghost moments in this book, whether it was described imagery inside and outside of the house (spectres through windows, hell yes), and the way that our characters, be it Eric or Dess or whomever, would be in a darkened area in the house and would have a moment that would just make my blood run cold. I love a well done haunted house story, and man oh man does this book have some really well done haunted house moments. The other less obvious suspenseful angle was the mystery as to why Eric, Dess, and Stacy are on the run and trying to be incognito. All the reader knows is that they are driving cross country, trying to stay under the radar, and worried that they are going to be spotted or noticed. Compton takes his time to carefully reveal what is going on here. And let me tell you, when we DID find out what it was? My mind was blown. Part of me was like ‘is this a little too out of left field?’ But the louder part of me was like ‘no, shut up, you love this’. And I did.

But this does kind of segue into the aspects that didn’t work as well for me. The first issue is the pacing of this book. I kind of mentioned above that the reveal of why Eric and his kids are running just blew my mind. And it did. Like, I really liked it. BUT, by the time we got to it, we were a good three fourths into the book, with a lot of teasing and drawing out leading up to it. I appreciate holding cards to the vest, but sometimes curiosity can turn to frustration and impatience. And then things kind of got into a whirlwind right before the end, followed by a bit of a drawn out post-climax. Along with that, there are a lot of perspectives in this book. Some of them we get to see multiple times, which makes sense, we absolutely need to get into Eric’s head, and Dess and Stacy’s heads. But there were also the perspectives of some side characters that we only spent the minimal amount of time with, and it didn’t feel necessary, really. If anything it contributed to the lagging pace.

The above said, overall I thought that “The Spite House” had some really strong bits. I definitely want to see what else Johnny Compton comes out with, because the horror moments are unnerving as all get out.

Rating 6: Eerie and unnerving, “The Spite House” is a tense haunted house story. The pacing could have picked up a bit and the number of perspectives get a bit overdone, but the pay off is mostly worth it.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Spite House” is included on the Goodreads list “2023 Gothic”.

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