Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Kavenagh House Review

Now and then you read a book that is such a distillation of the genre, such a perfect jewel of fiction, such a gem, that you can't lay it aside. For me, today, that was THE KAVENAGH HOUSE by Susan Dayley.

Parker has a problem. Her parents have moved into a completely mental house and now she has to leave her grandparents' place and go live with them. It's not just that she'll have to leave the kindness of her grands for the cold distance of her very busy parents.

It's also that the house was designed by a genius mastermind who built amazing scenes and traps and hazards and puzzle locks and hidden rooms and retractable stairs into the house. No one--not even the original owners--have found all the dangers. The delicious spookiness just keeps coming at you.

And it's that Parker can feel dead people. And her strange new house is lousy with them. At least one of those wraiths does not want Parker there and will defend its turf to the death. Her family members don't believe her, and since they can't perceive the ghosts, seem to be safe...until things start changing.

It's a race between a freaked-out Parker with her high school friend, Mason (who can see ghosts), a hundred-year-old victim(?), and Vincent, the crazy brain trust who built and enhanced the house. Vincent, who is so much more than a hundred-year-old ghost with an amazing amount of power and deviousness for a dead person.

 You should know that the book ends on a cliff. Fly to the bookstore and buy the next one as soon as Dayley writes it. I dare you.

This book was extremely well-written. The characters were richly drawn and fresh. I absolutely LOVED loved loved the house with its locks and traps and gadgets and carefully crafted magic. It was steampunk HEAVEN! Like Parker, I take a jaundiced view of people just tossing on a gear or two and a pair of goggles and calling it steampunk. To me the gadgets have to work and be logical and have a certain finesse to them. This house ROCKED MY SOCKS! I'm totally trying not to covet this fictitious house. The effort's not going well.

This was such a carefully crafted ghost story. Vincent totally creeped me out, such that I got just a bit shivery when I read by myself in my darkened house. I think Vincent embodies the name TOOL. He's so masterful and devious and such an evil genius, but you can't help being amazed by his brilliant attention to detail and extreme mastery of his art/science.

I love that this story seems to be set in an alternate America. That added so much scope for more mayhem. Dayley's world-building is excellent.

Dayley crafts this amazing collection of mechanical masterpieces without the need for bad language, gore, sex, or other unnecessary distractions. She still manages to creep the heck out of someone who usually spends her time picking things like that apart.

@Umpteen extremely cool and complicated locks
@Several hidden rooms
@An amazing steam generated sound system
@A spoonful of dry bones
@A sprinkling of wafting spirits
@And pluses I shouldn't even mention--but want to.

You can get this book here: You'll only need half your seat--the front half--and only long enough for one massive single-sitting read. Buckle into your leather jacket, strap on your goggles, slip into your heavy gloves, and get ready for a bumpy ride! I give this one five out of five shivers.