Book Review: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

22716451Title: House of Echoes

Author: Brendan Duffy

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 2,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family’s dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare.
Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school.
When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over.
House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole.

House of Echoes reads like your classic gothic horror novel: a gigantic mansion, a family moving in who already suffered through depression and trauma. I expected the mansion to be haunted but that’s not really the case – apart from some animal carcasses left on the new owner’s front porch, nothing really spooky is going on in relation to the mansion itself. Ben and Caroline and their two young boys move to a small, close-knit community to try and start over, running away from their dark and depressing past. But not all is as it seems in town, and their fresh start might turn into a nightmare.

Ben is an author struggling to come up with a concept for his new book. Caroline lost her banking job and wants to renovate the mansion into a proper B&B. Charlie, their oldest son, is barely eight years old and struggled at his last school, since he was being bullied. They all want to make a fresh start, and at first, it seems to work. But then Caroline’s paranoia sets in, Ben is too focused on his book rather than on his family, and Charlie starts spending hours and hours in the woods. At the same time, the reader senses something is going on, and that something bad will happen soon, but the suspense keeps on lingering for several chapters until the big mystery is finally revealed.

The book also has some letters dating from 1777 and detailing the horrors the ancestors of the town’s families went through. It’s a nice touch to combine past and present since the two are overwhelmingly interlinked throughout the book.

It’s more of a paranormal mystery than a horror book though, and even after the big reveal, the book isn’t really scary. There are some build-ups throughout but most of them end up going nowhere. I’d expected the house to turn against them, but that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, while the story isn’t bad, it isn’t very original either. The writing is okay, but tends to take a while to get its point across, dragging out the narrative. And the characters, with the exception of Ben, are hard to relate to. The whole family lives seperate lives almost, and that would be all right if it didn’t cause the reader not to relate to any of them except Ben.

Overall, it has an interesting premise but because it takes too long for anything spooky to happen, the reader feels more like they’re stuck reading Caroline’s diary of how she renovates this part of the house, decides to try out this recipe, and then repeats everything the next day. The pacing is simply too slow and the suspense isn’t high enough to warrant that. Most suspense build-ups end up going nowhere, and the end is a little anti-climatic at that point. Not bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it either.

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