The House That Jack Built - Graham Masterton

(No Series)

After Craig Bellman, a successful young New York lawyer, is horribly injured in a street mugging, he and his wife, Effie, retreat to the Hudson Valley to restore his health and save their relationship. When they discover a derelict old mansion, Valhalla, Craig becomes fascinated by it. He ignores Effie's misgivings and starts to make inquiries about buying it, undeterred by the expense and its history: it was built by legendary gambler and womanizer Jack Belias - and every owner since Belias has come to a tragic end. Even today, Valhalla echoes with its terrible past. Out of loyalty to her husband Effie tries to overcome her fears, but recruits a local spiritualist in an attempt to rid the house of its threatening vibrations. But death and destruction return to Valhalla, and Craig, obsessed by the house, becomes more of a stranger to Effie every day. It would appear that the spirit of Jack Belias is still with them...

Graham Masterton wined, dined, and romanced me with his gory, viscerally rich ‘The Devil in Grey.’ Here he makes the past cross the lines with the modern again, this time, as before, dealing with devilish spirits up to no good.

The plot is traditional type of ghost story, with possession, unexplained deaths, haunted houses, and mysterious ‘drawings’ to places and people of the characters. Sure, there’s nothing really new here, but it’s fun anyway.

Pacing doesn’t hurt the book, either. Spooks and chills are delivered without haste, action is tight and well delivered, violence is sudden, shocking, strong, and the ending is one that lasts in the readers mind even when the book is read, closed, and locked away on the shelf.

Characters are gripping and emotionally driven, particularly the wife Ellie. Since Craig is the one going through all the ghostly drama, I suppose Masterton chose to show so much through the wife’s eyes as she is a spectator and informant of sort for the reader to get the overall picture. Well done!

When violence strikes, it’s bloody, traditional Masterton style. The book isn’t creepy, but it is intriguing. The beginning starts off with action that’s not directly related to the plot but nail-grinding nonetheless, giving adequate back story to why Craig comes to Valhalla to begin with. The middle keeps flourishing and branching out, growing stronger as each scene feeds the next, wrapping up with an ending that left me pleased, content, but also a bit sad and ‘stumped.’

I’m a sucker for haunted houses, or even just old mansions/run down places that have such strong mysterious atmosphere a picture of Sherlock Holmes may as well be hanging on the walls. This one didn’t let me down in the least, going over inch by inch of the place, using the dark corners and demented rooms to its advantage.

Even though I hold minor qualms with how the ending turned out (not bad writing, just personal grimaces), I rate this book highly. Masterton’s writing style is crafty and addictive, his approach solid and strong, creating an end product that’s both memorable and enjoyable.

Find it, buy it, let your mind soak it up. One can never have too many haunted house stories, especially when the story surrounds manipulative, cruel ghosts who come back from the grave for reasons one would never originally expect.

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