Pros: Engrossing, tense
Cons: Well-used concept
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Blood House, by Amy Cross, is ultimately about a house that eats people (well, sort of). It’s a well-worn horror trope, but I enjoyed watching it play out. It includes a long-dead madman inventor, a more-than-stubborn teenager Jenna, a perpetually broke husband Owen, and a wife Helen who tries to keep the peace. Owen is running from his creditors, and decides that an inexpensive rental out in the middle of nowhere would be just the ticket. Jenna is more than a little outraged that he sprang this on her and her mother and that they got no say in it.
The Blood House is novella-length, which worked for me. If you’re going to wrap your entire piece around a trope, then you might as well move quickly through the familiar parts and concentrate on the window-dressing: your characters. I thought the family was presented well–it was easy to dislike shiftless Owen, but also easy to understand his unfailing optimism that things would get better. I could feel poor Helen trapped between her husband and her daughter, and Jenna is beyond angry–she’d like her mother to leave her father. For a small family in a short novel, they had more depth than I expected.
It takes little time before the house begins to creep out its new tenants. They already know there was a mysterious murder there 75 years ago (bodies never found, but the blood had gone everywhere). No one had rented it in that time, and the creepy person renting out the house (Mr. Daniels) said that its owner (the inventor) had laid out very specific instructions for when and how the building was to be rented out. Because of that, the family is getting a really good deal on the rental. In a normal longer version of this story we’d see the tenants very, very slowly warm up to the fact that the house is a killer. Instead, since this is a novella, we can jump almost straight into the understanding and application of the meat of the story. At least it means the reader doesn’t sit there for an hour going, “why do these idiots not realize something is wrong?”!
There are a few oddnesses in the narrative–for example, a bizarre, long narration of a key turning in a lock.
I won’t detail this, but I will say I liked the end and how it was handled.