Monday, 16 May 2016

Book review - The House That Hell Built - Stuart Keane, Matt Shaw and Michael Bray

Sometimes, something comes along and it immediately grabs your attention. It can grab your attention for a whole manner of different reasons. When this book cover reveal was done on Facebook and having read the blurb, I was in awe. Stuart Keane, Matt Shaw and Mik Bray all in one book. I make no bones that I am a fan of all three of their work. My initial fear with this project was whether the book could live up to my own hype. I'm glad to say that it did.

The main body of the story is split into two timelines, being told from the point of view of a team of ghost hunters in present times by Stuart Keane and from the point of view of a family in the late 1960's by Matt Shaw.

The present

James Tulley, his wife Lauren Child and her teenage daughter Frankie armed with her trusted ipod along with another bunch of individuals Emily, Skye, Steven and Brett arrive at the mysterious Berkeley Manor where they are to form a 'Dark Tourist' group. Upon meeting at the house they are greeted by the exuberant Chester Oxford, the man who is to be their tour guide.

Upon entering the house, Chester warns that the tour will be starting at ten the following morning. A hot meal had been prepared and under any circumstances, any of the group were not to go snooping around the house. As an air of negativity begins to fill the room as the group are eating dinner, two of the group go wandering to a nearby lake to investigate an urban legend of a body that repeatedly winds up floating in the murky water.


Written in first person perspective, Ben and his wife Fiona along with their two girls, Claudia and Summer move into Berkeley Manor. Following a promotion within his company, he was now a partner in the successful Oxford and Chamberlain solicitors. Initially worried by the cost of the property, Ben assures Fiona that it was well within their budget as the previous owner was desperate to sell.

Ben is in the middle of representing a client who is on trial for murder; Rick Jones, a man accused of violently murdering his wife with a crow bar. As the pressures of the case mount up, and Ben's health and relationship are up to breaking point, can the unusual occurrences within Berkeley Manor be put down to stress, his downward spiral into insanity or something much more sinister?

Late one night, there is a knock at the door. When Ben answers, he is greeted by a man. A man with an intriguing offer.

So that's all I can really say about the story without giving major spoilers. The story lends itself to what I would consider a more 'traditional' horror story. Both halves of the tale work well alongside each other extremely well. The suspense builds slowly in both until it reaches a climax where, excuse the pun, holy hell breaks loose. Both Keane and Shaw drive their particular parts in their own style which compliment each other seamlessly. One scene in particular that I thought worked well, is where Ben picks up the phone to ring his doctor's office - you will see. Another scene, although done very subtly, as a parent I found particularly disturbing to read.

So, I see you ask, where did Mik Bray come into it? Bray's part in this story is only small. In fact, it could have been missed out and the story would have still worked. The fact that it was included was a very clever little catalyst that helped to fuse the framework of both timelines and characters together.

I can't say much else, just go and read it, you won't be disappointed.

In summary; A fast paced, entertaining  read with elements of The Shining, Evil Dead, the Beast House Chronicles, Poltergeist and The Devil's Advocate wrapped up like a game of Cluedo.

My rating 5/5.


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