What if ghosts were commonplace and what scared us wasn’t a house that was haunted, but one that wasn’t?
If you are anything like me, then you won’t need to read on to sell you on this book. The concept on its own was enough to pique my interest. The fact the book is co-authored by two of the best new authors in horror is just a welcome bonus.
The Perfectly Fine House is a story of Donna Fitzpatrick and her twin brother Kyle. Donna is working herself into an early grave running her own business, and Kyle…well, Kyle is long since in his grave. Not one to let his death spoil his fun, Kyle is a constant source of concern for Donna, who spends his days high, or generally wasting his afterlife. When Donna’s increasingly failing health forces her to take a long overdue break, she takes a trip to a remote and deserted mansion. She soon notices something odd about the house. There isn’t a ghost to be found. When more ghosts begin to go missing, Donna and Kyle must discover the secret of the Perfectly Fine House to save (after)life as we know it.
Full disclosure, I was already a big Stephen Kozeniewski fan before picking this book up. His sci-fi horror book The Hematophages (described as a cross between ‘Alien’ and ‘Office Space’) was easily my favourite book of 2017. I had also read Wile E. Youngs excellent debut novel Catfish in the Cradle which had a unique mix of Southern Gothic and Lovecraftian monsters, so going into this book it’s fair to say I had some pretty high expectations.
The book is, as you’d expect, a clever twist on the classic haunted house story. While this may not be the book to read if you’re looking for scares, where the book excels is in its world building. Both writers have a great knack in their solo fiction for fully realised and engaging characters and that shines through here. They then place their characters in a world familiar to us, yet very different in interesting ways. The authors take the notion of a world filled with ghosts and run with it, driving the idea to logical conclusions and creating fun concepts for universe they have built (Donna’s business, a ‘surrogacy’ agency that allows ghosts to possess the living for, ahem, erotic purposes, is a particularly inspired example).
If The Perfectly Fine House has anything that it could be compared to, it would probably be the movie The Frighteners. Those expecting a comedy book based on the premise will find that the book can be very funny at times, but it is not an easy book to pin down in terms of tone, and it does it a disservice to describe it solely as horror, or comedy. The book gets quite dark in places, and it moves seamlessly between huge scale action, family drama and tragedy.
Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, with a great cast of characters, a blackly comedic undertone and enough horror cred to satisfy the genre crowd, I can safely say you have probably never read anything like this book before. Stephen Kozeniewski and Wile E Young should be on any horror fans radars right now.