Book Review: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

22609323Title: Within These Walls
Author: Ania Ahlborn
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult (but can be read by YA and older)
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?
With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

Within These Walls is my first read by Ania Ahlborn, apparently a bestselling sensation (which I didn’t know when I picked up this book – I did that solely based on the description) but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. The book offers enough interesting twists, and the characters are intriguing enough to warrant reading another book by this author.

Lucas Graham, our main character, is a true crime writer who’s been struggling for years. First, with his career. He wrote a major bestseller decades ago, but ever since, he hasn’t quite reached that fame. His marriage is as good as over, with his wife even having an affair with another man. His daughter is angry about her parents breaking up, and about him moving her from New York to a small, beach-side village in Washington State. But Lucas has no choice: he got an offer he simply couldn’t refuse. An offer that could turn his nightmare of a life back into a beautiful dream, that could repair his career, mend his relationship with his wife, and basically, change everything.

Jeffrey Halcomb, leader of a cult popular in the seventies, agreed to do an interview. Halcomb has never allowed anyone to interview him before, so if Lucas gets to do the interviews and writes a book about it, he’s guaranteed a spot on the bestselling list. There’s only one catch. Lucas has to move into the property Halcomb and his followers lived in, before they committed suicide and Halcomb killed a girl and her unborn baby. Right in the living room of the house Lucas and his teenage daughter are about to live in.

The book combines psychological and supernatural terror, and does so rather well. The author takes a long time to set the scene, almost too long. I don’t mind giving the reader ample time to get to know the characters, but here the plot almost dragged on, especially toward the end when I just wanted to know what would happen and when the big climax would be. The book also has several flashbacks, which gave an interesting perspective on the events that unfolded with Halcomb and his followers thirty-something years ago.

If it wasn’t for the pacing being so slow, I probably would’ve enjoyed this more. Also, when the horror hits, somehow it never reaches the level of terror I’d anticipated and hoped for. It’s all rather bland at the end. Jeffrey Halcomb is by far the most interesting of all characters, yet he doesn’t get a POV, although Lucas and his teen daughter, Vee, do. The ending had a few surprises though, and I ended up with a rather pleasant feeling about this read. I wasn’t scared – not in the slightest – but it was entertaining and offered nice twists on some common tropes (like the Satanic cult, enigmatic cult leader, Satanic rituals, house haunted by crimes of the past, and so on).

If you like horror that combines the psychological and supernatural, and you don’t mind a slow pace, I’d recommend this one. The plot and characters make for an entertaining read, but you might struggle through some of the 400+ pages.

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