Sunday, August 20, 2023

August Read: The September House by Carissa Orlando


I haven't read a knock down, in-your-face horror novel in a very long time. Wowza. Horror fans will inhale this novel and come out the other side with a few choice words. I read it over the space of the weekend in between cooking and running errands. Thankful for a steaming hot day today that--oh darn--kept me inside reading. I'm not one for always reading horror novels, but when it comes to haunted houses, I am in it! 

September House is about a beautiful Victorian home where married couple Hal and Margaret live. Finally, they have the home of their dreams. Doesn't matter the basement is creepy and smelly, and they got it super cheap. 

Now it's been a few years, and it's September again. The month where the moans start softly, then build to piercing screams. Where blood begins to drip down the walls, slowly oozing all the way down the stairs. And there's the pranksters, all the little children who clearly died horrible deaths, hanging around the house, pointing at the basement. I can't stress enough--if you are squeamish, pass this novel by. If you, like myself, have the ability to see the dark humor in all of this, you'll be able to wince, but keep on reading. 

It seems Hal and Margaret have a haunted house. Sure, it's nice to have a housekeeper (Fredricka) who makes you tea and cooks you supper--don't mind the horrible ax wound she has on her face. And in September, well, Fredricka goes on a bender and moves things all around the house. Once September ends, things quiet down. But no way do you go in the basement. Master Vale lives there. 

Hal is done. He can't take anymore, and leaves. Margaret--well, she's lived with Hal and rules their whole marriage, so if she just follows the rules in the house, she'll be okay and get through another September. After all, it's her house and she's not leaving. 

Katherine, Hal and Margaret's adult daughter, is concerned her Dad is gone and won't respond to phone calls and seems to have disappeared. Katherine decides she's going to come to the home (she's never been) and get to the bottom of her father's disappearance. Margaret is distressed--after all, it is September. How will she manage cleaning up the blood, and how will Katherine sleep with all the screaming every night? Not to mention the pranksters...

Dang, this was one heck of a novel. If you're squeamish, avoid this novel. If you like very dark humor mixed in with a heck of a haunted house and a really nasty evil presence, step right up! The end is AMAZING. 

There's also other stuff that's brought to light, along with the escalation of concern over Hal's disappearance and Katherine's concern for her mother's mental health. There's backstory about Margaret's marriage and Katherine's childhood that frames the story, and certainly fleshes out Margaret's character and the choices she makes. It also sets up the last thirty or so pages, where you're breathlessly turning the pages and cheering Margaret on as she battles Master Vale. It's a bloody, brutal fight. 

This novel will be out in the U.S. on September 5th in hardcover, audiobook, and e-book. Thanks to Edelweiss and Berkley for a chance to read before publication. It will definitely go on my Best of 2023 list!

Rating: 5/6 for one hell of a paranormal/haunting/horror novel that builds in tension and explodes in action the last 1/4th of the novel. Fall readers who like a spooky read will grab this up. Warning: harm to children and violence make up a large part of this horror novel. Dark humor--yes, there is plenty. 

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