Book Review: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)

11356211Title: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Supernatural, Paranormal
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: May 1st 2011
Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Book Website | Amazon | B&N

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

If you’ve read my blog, then you know I’m always up for a good ghost story, an extraordinary supernatural thriller or just anything that’s scary enough to keep me up at night. When author Karina Halle contacted me asking if I wanted to review her debut novel, Darkhouse, I was especially thrilled. It had been quite a while since I’d read anything remotely scary, and the synopsis of the book seemed promising enough. But Darkhouse turned out unlike anything I’d expected. It drew me in from page one, with its easy-to-relate to, flawed but loveable characters, its fast pace, the unpredictable plot twists and its eerie, surreal atmosphere. If you’re searching for the scariest book of this season, then search no more. Darkhouse is exactly what you’re looking for.

Our protagonist, Perry, is a very interesting character. She has a great many flaws, which makes her all the more human. She isn’t fond of her job, which isn’t like she imagined it would be, although she’s in her twenties she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she isn’t confident with her appearance. Yes, ring the alarm bells, because we have an actual human heroine on our hands rather than a Mary Sue version of reality. Perry is very easy to relate to, mostly because she knows she has flaws, but tries to live with them. She’s worked on her appearance before, but like with all of us, it’s never enough. People used to tease her all through high school because she was overweight, and that never really goes away, no matter how much weight she lost. Especially not when, like in Perry’s case, her mom used to be a model and her kid sister has all the qualities to be one herself. When compared to these two, Perry thinks herself a bit dull, a bit ordinary, although she always hoped – like most, if not all of us – that there would be something extraordinary and special in her future. Well, Perry, it’s about to happen.

While on holiday at her uncle’s house, Perry and her sister Ada hang around with their cousins and a couple of their friends. Since hanging around with a bunch of teenagers is kind of boring her, Perry decides to check out the old and abandoned lighthouse near her uncle’s house. But she’s in for a surprise though. Not only is the lighthouse extremely terrifying, but there’s also somebody already in it. That, or the footsteps she hears on the first floor belong to a ghost.

Luckily for Perry, the person also investigating the lighthouse is anything but a ghost. In fact, he’s a rather handsome, charismatic and somewhat peculiar stranger. Although Perry’s first reaction is to be afraid of this Dex Foray guy, he sparks her interest when he tells her he went to the lighthouse to do some ghost-hunting. When the two of them hear more noises coming from above, they decide to check it out. While Perry is witness to something that can only be described as supernatural, Dex is nowhere insight. Feeling betrayed because he just ran off when things were getting dangerous, Perry decides to never think about this Dex-guy again. Although that’s not easy, considering the fact she found him quite attractive.

When Ada, Perry’s younger sister, falls ill and is unable to update her fashion blog, she asks Perry to write about something on her blog instead. Perry agrees reluctantly, but knowing nothing about fashion, she decides to write about her supernatural experience in the lighthouse instead. Luckily for her, she had her camera at hand, so she actually has some video/photo proof as well. When her post turns out to be the next internet hype , she suddenly receives a phonecall from aforementioned Dex Foray. Apparently he works for a youtube video company and the latest show he’s working on involves ghost-hunting. That, and he wants Perry and the haunted lighthouse on the show. Perry agrees, but she really has no clue what she’s getting into. The ghosts in the lighthouse might just be real, and they might have very special plans for Perry…

Since I already talked about how wonderful Perry is as a character because she has the same insecurities, problems and fears as more than half of the female population, which gives her this very humane and easy-to-relate to personality, let me talk about Dex now. You know how all those paranormal romance books feature a young, innocent girl and a more dominant vampire/demon/werewolf/other supernatural creature who has some typical bad boy charm, putting them in a peculiar relationship where one is always weak and the other always protective and strong? Yeh…well, not here. In fact, so far I’ve seen Dex portray zero supernatural abillities. He’s very much a human, and although he’s typically described as handsome by Perry, we also see a list of his many flaws indicating that perhaps not all of us would find him so handsome. He’s thin, with a bit of a moustache (personally, I’m not a fan of moustaches, but it seems to work for Dex!), and he leaves our heroine alone when in time of need. Granted, he apologises profusely about that, but still. Aforementioned Vampire/Demon/Werewolf would never do that. Unless they have to feed, or encounter another damsell in distress, or whatever. My point is: Dex has flaws at well, he isn’t the dominant male lead character some people look for when reading paranormal books. Instead, he’s human, he has a crappy low-paying job, he doesn’t look all that appealing when a night without sleep and he can get scared of ghosts as well. Which makes him one of my favorite male lead characters ever. Bonus points for Dex.

Perry and Dex’ relationship is really what drives this book. Sure, there’s the thrilling and suspenseful plot, the wonderful cast of supportive characters, the fast pace and unexpected plot twists, but in the heart of it, it’s all about Perry and Dex. It’s about two people who’ve made mistakes, who clearly aren’t perfect, and who are each desperately searching for love, who find each other. And they may not get there in this book, and maybe not even in the next, but eventually, they will. There’s a chemistry working for the two of them that they won’t be able to deny for long. The spark is there from the moment they meet, in the abandoned lighthouse, and it keeps on growing through this novel. Their interactions are at times hilarious, at other times sweet and always highly entertaining. I love them both, and I can’t wait to see what happens next to them.

As I already mentioned, the supportive characters are great as well. I especially liked Ada, Perry’s little sister, and her interactions with Perry. The two of them, albeit very different people, really do love each other.

The plot is not that original – I’ve read about abandoned lighthouses before, and protagonists dreaming about scary events about to happen to them before they actually happen…well, I’ve been there, done that. What’s original is the way the author deals with these things. She can take these clichés and turn them into something that doesn’t sound all that cliché anymore, simply because she adds the right amount of scaryness, and two of the best book characters ever created into the mix. The plot twists are unpredictable and suspensful, and kept me reading page after page after page until I’ve reached the end. Putting Darkhouse away was as impossible as travelling to the moon on foot. This is one of these books you just have to sit through to the end, or it’ll bug you forever. And even when I was done reading, I was still wondering: what’s going to happen next to Perry and Dex? Where will their next adventure take them? Will they finally get together? Yes, Darkhouse leaves you wanting more.

I would also like to congratulate Karina Halle on her excellent writing style. This book is self-published, but that really doesn’t show. It has the same high-quality writing as one would expect of a traditionally-published book, the editing is great and potential readers really shouldn’t scare away over the fact that this is self-published. There are some rare jewels in the self-publishing market as well, and the Experiment in Terror series definately is one of them.

I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a mix of scary, creepy and supernatural occurences and romance. It reminded me a lot of the X-Files and the Scully/Mulder interactions, and of the television series Supernatural. If you’re a fan of either one of those shows, then you’ll most definately enjoy Darkhouse as well. This book can be read and enjoyed by both young adults and adults. Just don’t read it late at night when you’re home alone.

Darkhouse is the first book in a series of eight. The next book in the series is entitled Red Fox and takes Perry and Dex on an eerie and creepy adventure in New Mexico. My review for Red Fox is coming later this week. Karina Halle’s third book in the series, Dead Sky Morning will be released this fall. I can’t wait to read Dead Sky Morning and the other books in the series. I’m officially hooked.


  1. […] I already wrote a review about the first book in this series, Darkhouse, and went to great lengths to explain to you all how much I truly enjoyed that book. It’s always a bit frightening when a debut book is great and you have the next book the series waiting for you to read it. If it’s worse than the first book, you’re always left with this double feelings as a reader: on the one hand, you still pretty much enjoyed the first book and you’d like to recommend it to people, but on the other hand if the second book didn’t appeal to you quite as much you feel like you’re being a hypocrite if you try to apraise the series to people. However, luckily for me I didn’t have to worry about that with Red Fox. This book totally went above and beyond my expectations, and completely surpassed Darkhouse on all levels. […]

  2. […] HalleDarkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) | Read my review. Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) | Read my review. Dead Sky Morning | Coming October 13th 2011. […]

  3. […] previously reviewed the first two books in this series. You can read my review of Darkhouse or read my review of Red Fox, or take a look at my interview with author Karina […]

  4. […] “Dark­house turned out unlike any­thing I’d expected. It drew me in from page one, with its easy-to-relate to, flawed but love­able char­ac­ters, its fast pace, the unpre­dictable plot twists and its eerie, sur­real atmos­phere. If you’re search­ing for the scari­est book of this sea­son, then search no more. Dark­house is exactly what you’re look­ing for.” — I Heart Reading […]

  5. […] you regularly read my reviews, you’ve no doubt come across my reviews of her previous novels, Darkhouse, Red Fox and Dead Sky Morning. I love her Experiment in Terror series, focused on two intriguing, […]

  6. […] in Terror series, one of my favorite paranormal mystery series ever. I’ve previously reviewed Darkhouse, Red Fox, Dead Sky Morning and a short story, The […]

Speak Your Mind