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Content warning: murder, torture, gore, blood, sleep paralysis demons, emotional abuse, parental terminal illness
Vera Crowder comes home to settle the estate while her mother lives out her final days. Their relationship has always been strained and it doesn’t help that her father is Francis Crowder, a storied serial killer who used the house for his deadly extracurriculars. Though her father died years ago, something else haunts the house, leaving behind notes and making sure Vera doesn’t get a wink of sleep.
Claustrophobic, melancholy, and atmospheric, this story about a woman packing up her family’s possibly haunted house is a delight for both true crime and horror fans alike.
An interview with the author will be going up on release day, July 19th, 2022.
This is a book where knowing the bare bones of the set up makes for the best experience. It’s clear that Gailey has done some of the work as far as understanding the characterization of serial killers. Francis loves his daughter while committing atrocities in the basement. He’s a boogeyman, but those details unfold as the reader becomes more familiar with Vera and the Crowder House.
Though I try my best not to read books in comparison with the author’s other bibliography, I will note is that this book’s tone is much more melancholy than Gailey’s previous work. Vera is not a character full of snark and “laughing so she doesn’t cry.” She’s exhausted by the contradiction that is her father, her mother’s coldness, the literal lack of sleep, the contradictions in her past, and the ostracization by the community. The prose is very frank about this and it really works, especially as the hauntings ramp up as the story goes on.
That being said, the prose is clever in other ways. While the age stamps make it clear when we’re reading Vera’s childhood, there are choices in vocabulary and visceral experience that make the difference between the adult and child easy to catch. It’s very deliberate, but also doesn’t infantilize Vera’s misreading or firsthand understanding of situations that had more to them. Moreover, Gailey mirrors chapters between the adult and the child to maintain the flow and pacing.
So much is best left unspoiled, but the thing that really got me invested in how Daphne, Vera’s ailing mother, might in fact be just as bad as her father without also being a serial killer. There’s a catharsis to the messed up lengths families will go to process their collective trauma, and Gailey handles it deftly.
Definitely a book to read with the lights on, when you can be sure that the shadows are, in fact, shadows.