Monday, January 30, 2023

Review: The Spite House by Johnny Compton


The Spite House
 by Johnny Compton
Tor Nightfire
Publication Date: February 7th, 2023
Hardcover. 272 pages.

About The Spite House:

"Eric Ross is on the run from a mysterious past with his two daughters in tow. Having left his wife, his house, his whole life behind in Maryland, he’s desperate for money–it’s not easy to find safe work when you can’t provide references, you can’t stay in one place for long, and you’re paranoid that your past is creeping back up on you. 

When he comes across the strange ad for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, Eric thinks they may have finally caught a lucky break. The Masson property, notorious for being one of the most haunted places in Texas, needs a caretaker of sorts. The owner is looking for proof of paranormal activity. All they need to do is stay in the house and keep a detailed record of everything that happens there. Provided the house’s horrors don’t drive them all mad, like the caretakers before them. 

The job calls to Eric, not just because there’s a huge payout if they can make it through, but because he wants to explore the secrets of the spite house. If it is indeed haunted, maybe it’ll help him understand the uncanny power that clings to his family, driving them from town to town, making them afraid to stop running. A terrifying Gothic thriller about grief and death and the depths of a father’s love, Johnny Compton’s The Spite House is a stunning debut by a horror master in the making."

The Spite House is a perfectly spooky Gothic haunted house story that hit all the right notes. There's a bit of mystery, some untrustworthy characters, and of course plenty of haunting. I liked this take on the classic trope of people staying in a haunted house to see if it's really haunted, and Compton created a delightfully dark and creepy atmosphere that was present from page one.

The Spite House follows Eric Ross and his two daughters, Dess and Stacy, as they live a life on the run after running away from their previous life in Maryland. Eric has left his wife, the mother of his children, behind and is constantly searching for a new place to work and live where the three can stay under the radar, which often leads to them constantly moving around to new areas. One day, Eric comes across an ad for the Masson House which curiously requests someone to live in the house for one year and document any and all paranormal activity. Eric jumps at the chance–not only is it a place to live, but the pay is more than he could make anywhere else. Little do they know that living at the Masson House will prove to be much more than any of them could have bargained for.

A spite house, in case you don't know, is a building built solely to aggravate and annoy neighbors or surrounding building owners. They are often built in weird designs or as excessively narrow buildings in order to fit into random spaces meant to, well, spite those they desire to irritate. I think this would also include houses that may have been painted in really annoying or flashy colors that would irritate neighbors as well. I was vaguely aware of spite houses before this book, but I had a lot of fun looking up more about them and checking out some pictures.

The Spite House jumps around different POVs throughout the book with a variety of characters in addition to our main viewpoints of Stacy, Dess, and Eric, and I enjoyed getting some small tidbits into what was going on in other people's heads regarding the events of the story. That being said, I felt like some of those alternate POVs may have served the story better if they had been done slightly less often and more rarely in order to offer up some additional information at specifics moments. I did, however, really appreciate getting to hear from Eric, Dess, and Stacy, and I thought their insights were incredibly vital and compelling. I particularly liked hearing Eric's thoughts and his reasonings behind many of his decisions regarding being on the run and keeping his children safe. Although I sometimes question his choice to move his children into a known haunted house, I really appreciated seeing his love and dedication to them shine through.

The pacing of The Spite House was definitely on the slower side for the majority of the story, but it kept plodding along at a fairly consistent rate that I felt worked well for the slow build up of tension it required. The only exception I'd say to the slower pacing is that the house sort of... awoke (?) much sooner than I expected and also in ways I didn't expect, so that was a nice surprise. I personally found the first half of the book a little more engaging than the latter portions, but that's not to say that the latter half wasn't strong (it just depends on what your preferences are!). There's also a lot of backstory and information that is presented that sometimes feels a little hard to keep up with, but that does eventually all pay off. For all the build-up that occurs, I did feel that the later climactic events and big reveals happened pretty suddenly and didn't leave much room for exploration. Things get considerably weirder as this book goes on as well, and just when you think you might have an idea of what's going on... well, you probably don't. I loved that this book really kept me on my toes and actually did some different things.

Overall, I've given The Spite House four stars! This is a great addition to the haunted house subgenre of horror and is a great slow burn that doesn't leave anything behind. 

*I received a copy of The Spite House courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. Another book I wish I'd requested! I'm glad it was so good. I have never heard the term "spite house" before, but now I'm off to google it, lol.