Author: J. W. Ocker
Felix Allsey is a cocky travel writer. He is a skeptic that writes about the haunted places that he visits. He convinces the owner of the Rotterdam Mansion, or Rotter House, to let him stay there with no contact with the outside world for 13 nights. He is convinced that this book will put him on the best seller’s list. When his best friend, Thomas, joins him for the 13-night project, things start going wrong. Felix has to face the fact that just maybe, he is haunted.
I really enjoyed this book. It started out as one genre and then completely turned on its head into another genre. As I’m sitting to write this review, I am really mad that I didn’t catch the hints throughout the book as to how it would end. Because those hints are there, in plain sight, waiting for you to pick up on them. But you won’t. Not until you finish it and sit down to write a review on it.
Firstly, it’s a great concept. Especially if you’re like me and you’re constantly analyzing character dialogue and writing techniques because Ocker literally has the characters talk about those things. The concept also provides a ready reason for why they don’t leave the house and why they don’t have lights or a phone. Those are all of the things I think about when reading a haunted house book. Why don’t they turn on the lights? Why are these people still here? Why don’t they call someone? I loved that it was so meta. They knew they were acting out this haunted house story, and fully intended to act out all of the classic haunted house tropes. I love that there is this mystery between the two friends that have put their friendship on rough waters. There are hints at this mystery that are laid out until it’s finally revealed and the characters are forced to talk about it and work their way through it. While each of them is having this internal conflict, they are also dealing with this haunted house. Acting out tropes and receiving the expected results: mysterious noises, ghostly figures, and of course there is a creepy dumbwaiter that has a surprise in its gut.
I do think that the novel was a bit slow. There seemed to be so little happening for so long. There was a witty banter of friends and exploring the house, but there was no real action until the second half of the book, with most of it packed in the last quarter. I just wanted there to be more happening in the first half instead of just hearing a scream once or twice. All of the signs of the haunting in this book were just enough to keep me interested. J. W. Ocker did a great job of giving us ghosts and a haunting without really giving us much detail about the ghosts or the haunting. A scream here, a shadow there, all in perfect timing to keep the suspense up. It was also really nice to read this book from a skeptic’s point of view. Felix was constantly trying to rationalize everything. He made sure to talk about how the Ouija Board is sold at toy stores and made by toy companies. Thomas was the believer of the two and the conversations they had about the paranormal were really interesting. Those conversations also gave us some good background on each character.
I loved the ending of this book. I definitely did not predict what was going to happen, but looking back it’s like, “How did I miss that?” And that twist ending is the whole reason this book changes its sub-genre. If it had stayed on its course in supernatural horror, I probably would rate it around 2.5 stars. But because it changed the direction, it changed the whole story and I am rating it at 4 stars. It lost a star for how slow the first half of the book was.
Overall, this book was fresh and at the same time, it repeated all the classic haunted house tropes with a unique look. It was fun to read and I FLEW through the second half of the book. I recommend it to all horror film buffs, haunted house fans, and anyone looking for a crazy twist ending. Twelve Nights at Rotter House is smart and self-aware and will take you by surprise.
Author: C. V. Hunt
There are a few rules to living in Strang:
- Stay indoors after dusk
- Under no circumstances do Outsiders find out what happens here and
- Leave a nightly offering of flesh and blood for Halloween
Not the All Hallows Eve you’re thinking of but, an offering to the entity that torments this small community on a nightly basis that it’s citizens call “Halloween”.
Members in the small town of Strang live a lonely and isolated life. Houses remain on the market for long periods of time or have been abandoned altogether and there seem to be no real relationships amongst any of the inhabitants. Barry Johnson is not one of the fortunate folks to up and flee this godforsaken place. After the passing of his mother, Barry is left to care for his father who is wheelchair-bound and as stubborn as they come. On one particular evening, while awaiting Halloween’s inevitable arrival, Barry’s curiosity gets the best of him and sets forth a string of events he is not entirely equipped to handle.
This is the first story I have read by C.V. Hunt and it was quite fun. The author has created an environment that oozes desperation while writing tersely. I like that, especially in a novella. She has taken a certain time of year that horror fans love to use as an excuse to pull out all of the stops when displaying their vast collection of skulls and bones (don’t even pretend this isn’t you) and has given us a reason for the electricity in the air. She has turned Halloween into a tangible being that seeks to drive its victims insane with fear and then feeds itself on that fear.
As I was reading this, I was completely enthralled with this idea of Halloween as a menace instead of the best holiday ever. I kept waiting to catch glimpses of how the people of Strang came to the conclusion of leaving critters on their porches as offerings every night instead of everyone abandoning this hell hole altogether. How long had Halloween been tormenting these people? How did he initially let his presence be known? As you get further into the story, pieces that didn’t make sense the first few times they were mentioned, questions surrounding Barry’s mother’s death and why “receiving a dot” is a daunting task, were revealed at just the right moment. However, the author never addresses Halloween’s origins.
The idea for this story is so original that I was able to easily overlook this minor frustration. The setting is perfect and atmospheric for fall and certainly sets a fantastic chilly stage for the Halloween season.
You can find Keely on Instagram @keelyfuse85