In Cash’s (Collision, 2014) horror novel, a young couple confronts malicious spirits while renovating a Victorian mansion.
Real estate investors Brad and Julie have flipped a series of homes, with each property netting them enough cash to buy and renovate the next. He loves losing himself in the physical labor, while she handles the paperwork. But their latest purchase, the Bedlam House on Long Island, feels different. As Brad sorts through the mounds of trash in the dilapidated basement, he starts to resent his wife; Julie had insisted they buy the mansion, as she was drawn to its sales potential. The harder Brad works, however, the stranger Bedlam House becomes. One day, he hears an odd rumbling, and when he breaks through a plaster wall, he finds a subbasement filled with crates containing a huge trove of “the stuff of everyday life dating back to who knew when.” Unbeknownst to Brad, two ghosts, Tessa and Gerald, are watching him. Tessa intends to seduce the young husband—something he might not survive. However, Gerald warns her that threatening his life will cause the mysterious creatures known as Sentinels to interfere, which neither ghost wants. This is familiar genre territory, but Cash’s breezy prose and sharply drawn characters shine. For example, he quickly portrays Tessa as a spoiled princess when she tells Gerald, “If [Brad] throws away my fox stole, you are going to have to kill him.” The author executes haunting scenes with a perfect balance of style and substance: “Nails caressed the back of his neck, and he whipped around, rattled, his eyes wild.” The narrative’s pacing and tone, though, are perhaps its most enjoyable aspects. Cash lets readers’ expectations simmer throughout, and he encourages them to cheer for both the ghouls and the greedy couple—and to look forward to whatever horrific climax awaits them. That said, the tidy ending is the only place where Cash’s control works against him; readers will likely crave a much livelier mess.
A deliciously deft horror page-turner.