Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-260-0
Our heroine Madeleine Chambers has inherited a big, spooky Gothic mansion called Hargest House from an aunt, and the house has all kinds of rumors attached to it, from satanism to worse, There is even a creepy tree here, and the roots are creepily growing into the basement… … yes, yes, you think you’ve heard this story before. Well, that was my initial thought too when I turn open The Devil’s Serenade, and I even have ready a list of things that I can do for fun if this one turns out to the same old generic creepy house story.
The story itself is not exactly new, but what the authors does very well here is to create a taut, gripping read. Really, I cannot put this book down. The heroine is someone I can relate to – especially her younger days reading Enid Blyton’s mystery stories – and her fears and concerns feel really real to me. I won’t say that I’m scared much while reading this story – a lot of the whole “Ooh, what was that? Did I see something! Eeek!” drama is staple haunted house spooky story trope in action. But how the author allows the story to unravel is superb. What I thought would happen doesn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would be, so I’m delighted to be floored. Seriously, this one is really good in a butt-barely-hanging-on-to-the-edge-of-seat way.
Even better, the atmosphere is gorgeous. There is a haunting, lovely Lovecraft-ian tenor to the whole creepy growing tree roots in the basement thing, but while the denouement isn’t very Lovecraft-ian in nature, it’s still something that floors and delights me at the same time. And the last two lines are gorgeous and apt… although the effect is dampened by the author using them in the dedication, thus “spoiling” those two lines somewhat. The Devil’s Serenade serves the kind of creepy fun I really, really like.