“I don’t remember the rest of that night. To this day I cannot tell you precisely how we came to the decision we finally reached. I know we did not sleep. I do remember when the dawn came, soft and swollen with rain and the sense of unseen things budding in the woods, we took fresh cups of coffee and sat on the steps to the patio, breathing in the fragrant steam and sitting quietly for the first time…. We were not the same people we had been the night before. The long hours of anguish and horror had birthed an implacable new sense of resolution in us. We became a simple one-purposed organism. Time – our past, our future – ceased to exist for us that night; there was before us only a single, unending now. […] We have both had flashes of regret for those vanished, golden people since, but they’ve been only that – flashes, a gently aching nostalgia as for people known and loved long ago in a distant youth. It is not nearly so bad as I had feared it might be. You only grieve for roads not taken by choice, not for those you have passed by because only one is left to you. (page 305).
The House Next Door has been a burden on Colquitt and Walter since they first heard rumors of its construction. They are the new (1970s) Southern wealthy, comfortable enough to own a beach house and have their own isolated paradise in the city. So when they discover that someone is building on the empty lot next door, they are upset that someone will be intruding on their solitude. Little do they know exactly what horrors are in store for them when they discover that the house is more than haunted, it’s possessed and willing to take whatever it wants, including your life.
The book opens with Colquitt and Walter going to People magazine to tell their story, a story that sounds absolutely insane. The rest of the novel is divided into three sections, each chronicling the life of one family who lives in the house next door. The house is a beautiful modern structure, built by a promising young architect named Kim. There are terrors abound in this novel, happening to each individual family. The worst of it is, believe Colquitt and Walter, that they can all be passed off as unfortunate coincidences. But the couple eventually feels the pull and terror of the house themselves.
I liked The House Next Door. Rivers Siddons successfully draws out the story with excellent pacing and decent suspense. There is a continuous sense of dread throughout the entire novel and the ending does not disappoint. I find with many horror novels, the denouement completely ruins the rest of the novel. When too much is explained, the mystery is gone, and so is the horror. I thought there might be the opposite problem with The House Next Door, with little to no explanation as to why a new, modern house is so haunted; however, I thought the ending was perfect, though I would have liked to see a little bit of the aftermath for Colquitt and Walter.
There is one scene at the beginning that I think marvelously demonstrates Rivers Siddons’s use of suspense:
“Don’t go around there Pie, Colquitt,” he said. “There’s another possum and her babies that have just been… torn apart. God! I never saw anything like that. There are just… pieces left. It looks like somebody took a chain saw -”
Pie gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth, and I stayed with her while the men went around to see. It upsets me to find dead things. Mashed squirrels and possums in the road give me unreasoning grief, as though I were responsible. […]
The men came back looking disturbed and sickened. Walter got a shovel from our basement and buried the possums at the edge of the woods, deeply, so that dogs would not be attracted. We walked the Harralsons and Lucas Abbot to the gray Mercedes, subdued and upset.
[…] Walter said, “Col, we’d better keep Razz and Foster inside for a day or two until we can tell if there’s anything around.”
Something was, even though we never saw it. The next week Kim found a nest of very young birds tumbled from one of the trees and slaughtered. The pulped body of the mother lay nearby. […] It just makes me sick,” I said. “That beautiful house, and all those little things that live in those woods. I hate the idea that something is… stalking around over there. It’s not natural somehow. And I’m afraid it’s going to spoil the house for Pie and Buddy….”
Every page is filled with the overwhelming notion that things are only going to get worse. And get worse they do, trust me.
What happens to the families living next door is truly terrifying, but, much like a Greek tragedy, all of the events take place off-stage and Colquitt and Walter reveal the story through flashbacks or through conversations with other characters. I think this works to a certain degree, but I think the novel would have been even scarier if Colquitt and Walter had witnessed more of the terror first-hand. Overall, this was a stellar beginning to RIP IV! Thanks Eva for the recommendation!
84% – Well paced, suspenseful, and a little bit terrifying.