A House by the Sea

Winthrop House, #1
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Something has always lived in Winthrop House...

After his book becomes a best-seller, novelist Jack Ripley moves into a house on the edge of Cutler Harbor with his wife and two daughters. Nearly a century old, Winthrop House is newly-restored and boasts a gorgeous oceanfront view.

But everything is not what it seems.

Though picturesque, Jack learns that the house has been shunned for decades by the locals, owing to a number of mysterious disappearances and inexplicable deaths on the grounds.

The Ripleys begin to grapple with the property's vile reputation, learning more about its sordid history and experiencing strange things within its walls. What was once a dream home quickly becomes a nightmare for the family as they encounter the terrifying presence that has existed there since times immemorial.

I’ve heard of this author but never had the pleasure of reading him until now. It turns out he truly is creepy as others have said, as I found – to some surprise – as the story unfolded. At first I wasn’t as impressed; the writing style was fine and easy to relate to, characters sound, but it just wasn’t grabbing my interest much until around the middle.

Haunted houses have tropes, clich├ęs, patterns we come to expect when digging in to these tales, which may be one reason I wasn’t as into it. This one dealt the steady hand of things readers expect: a friend who has a psychic lean, so-called expert investigators, trying to communicate with the dead, researching the local legend and history of the house, feelings of chill, drawings, dreams, night disturbances. The story starts taking it further, though, since this isn’t any ordinary spook or demon. There’s more than one thing involved with this house and I wasn’t sure of the true enemy, or if both were the true enemies. There’s a twist with the ending as well that cements this as truly chilling and makes it stand out.

Jack isn’t that nice of a character, really, but I like flawed mains. Him being a writer is a perk since I like writer leads. The ghost hunter is especially amusing for various reasons. This house has a dark history and, like many haunted location stories, becomes a character in its own right. Being set on the sea and having to do with the water makes it even more chilling.

Not all questions are answered, and I don’t fully get everything. Some of it’s open-ended. I like answers, so that was slightly frustrating, but not enough to dislike the story. A perk is the villain was unusual in its way, which makes the story different than many of a similar vein.

I was reading this in bed with the lights off by the light of my Oasis 3. My cat was on the blanket and my bedroom door was left over, looking into the dark hallway, as I generally do so the cat can go in and out at will. I’ll admit when the book ended that I genuinely got freaked out. I felt like a 10 year old as it reminded me of creepy stuff I went through as a teenager with the Ouija board. I then had to get up to go to the bathroom – yep, that wasn’t fun. I swear that door moved a bit…

I look forward to reading more from this author.


This book was read as part of 2020's Hallow-Reads.

It was also used in the American Horror Story Reading Challenge under Season 1: Murder House (see original tweet announcement here.)

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