Book Review: Conjure House by Gary Fry

17912071Title: Conjure House

Author: Gary Fry

Genre: Dark Fiction, Horror

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 3 stars

Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

The village of Deepvale has a sinister past. Built in the 1400s, it has been home to a number of sordid characters, including Peter Suman, known locally as ‘The Conjurer’ due to the diabolical experiments he was rumored to have conducted during the 19th Century, in a dark old house beside a lake.

In the 1990s, after a bet with his elder brother and three friends, seven-year-old Simon Mallinson goes missing inside the now derelict Conjurer’s House.

Fifteen years later, his brother Anthony is back in Deepvale, following the brutal deaths of his parents. And strange events have begun to occur in the village again, including the apparent return of young Simon and his creepy new friends. Worse still, Peter Suman appears to be back, too, bent on achieving what he failed to do over a hundred years earlier…

Conjure House, a novel of cosmic terror from Gary Fry.

Conjure House uses a lot of the standard horror elements – supposedly haunted house, obsessed mad man, town legend, childhood friends returning home to deal with a terrible event in the past. He manages to turn them into a convincing story that offers something unique and original, while staying remarkably close to the well-known tropes. The opening chapters started out very strong, drawing the reader into the story by showing us the disappearance of Simon, main character Anthony’s younger brother. Simon risks a step inside the Conjure House, and poof, he’s gone. That’s enough to make me interested, sure.

Flash forward. Anthony is now a grown up, and he’s done well for himself, with a wife and kid who adore him. But when his parents are brutally murdered, he decides to come back to his hometown. There, he meets someone who looks an awful lot like Simon, and who tells his son that he’s his uncle. Anthony invites his old gang of childhood friends to come back to town, and to put the past to rest for once and forever.

Remember how I metnioned the opening chapters are strong? Well, unfortunately the rest of the novel lacks that strength. First of all, the characters. Anthony and his wife soon act like strangers after moving, and it’s obvious from the start they have a very different view on things. Makes a person wonder how they fell in love in the first place. The characters act like they’re not real people, and this counts for all of them. Anthony is like a shell of a person. His emotions are all wrong and mixed up, much like a robot trying to be human. It’s just not realistic. Even how he reacts to his parents’ death, or seeing Simon again…It feels very, very odd, and not in a good way. Not sure if the author intended this, but all characters suffer from the same syndrome of not acting very human.

Then there’s the writing. It starts out strong, reminiscent of horror classics in the 1900s, with a descriptive writing style. However, it soon becomes bland. It doesn’t manage to hold suspense up for very long. By page 115, I grew bored, and even contemplated not finishing the book. It gets better about a dozen pages after that though, when the pace picks up again and the grand scheme is revealed, we figure out why and how Simon went missing, etc. But the middle part of the book could’ve been stronger. There are a lot of repetitive sentences, some scenes drag on without end, others are rushed.

All in all, Conjure House is an okay read, but not much more than that. The idea was there, and it was intriguing, but writing and characters could’ve been stronger.

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