Klein (Frankie Jones, 2016) offers a haunted-house tale with a twist.
Michael and Audrey Felton are looking for a place where they can get away from Houston and their work as professors at Monclair University and relax out in the country. When Michael finds an old, sturdy house in the tiny town of Krivac, Texas, it seems perfect. It’s not too far from work, but it’s still a place where they can be alone—or so they think when they buy it, cheap, from a real estate agent friend. From the beginning, Michael thinks something is off about the place but shrugs it off as superstition. However, after he and Audrey move in, they find a secret room, and they start hearing from townspeople that the previous owners, the Ostermanns, may have trapped people there—when they weren’t having large meetings late at night in the fields beyond the Native American burial ground. Then things start moving around the house, windows are broken one minute and fixed the next, and Charlie Blacek, an elderly neighbor, seems to appear and disappear at will. As the mystery deepens, Michael and Audrey must figure out if what’s going on is the result of some kind of conspiracy. The book starts out with a lot of run-of-the-mill haunted-house tropes—the new people in town buying an old, isolated house, things going bump in the night, and so on. But it turns an unexpected corner just shy of the halfway point, after which readers will find themselves questioning every new discovery—and that’s when Klein really makes the story engaging. He does have a tendency to overwrite, though; for instance, he describes the couple “being trapped with a loquacious real estate agent for four or five bromidic hours.” But this stylistic quirk becomes less noticeable as the story becomes more engrossing.
What starts out as a standard ghost story becomes a fun, unpredictable thriller.