There are two things you need to know about haunted houses. One, there’s never been an actual authenticated haunted house. Two, it’s not the house that’s haunted, but the person.
Callie is a young architectural student who marries Mateo, a wine importer, and moves to a grand old house in Southern Spain. Hyperion House is flooded with light, it also has a mute gardener, a sinister housekeeper and a sealed, dark servants’ quarters that nobody has the keys for. And although initially happy, and taking care of Mateo’s daughter, Callie can’t help being drawn to the dark empty rooms at the back of the house, and becomes convinced that someone is living in there.
Uncovering the house’s history, she discovers the shocking truth. As Callie’s fear of the darkness returns, she comes to understand the true nature of evil.
– Goodreads Synopsis
Fowler lays this book out with all the haunted house elements one can imagine – the young impressionable girl, the loving but disbelieving older man, the mute gardener, the stern housekeeper, etc. The first twenty percent or so is rather slow going, but soon enough the tension starts to ratchet up and you find yourself wondering how everything is going to end. Callie’s nyctophobia – better known as fear of the dark – was a very relatable element for me. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been as brave as she was at some points, and love the idea of (minus the things that go bump in the night) a house that is filled with light as much as possible, in theory. (In actually I’m practically half vampire, prefer blackout curtains, and have been known to quite literally hiss when I step out into bright sunlight.)
I do have to say this was an extremely unusual take on the haunted house sub-genre of horror, and I could see it being made into one seriously creepy Hitchcock-ian horror story. This is especially true when considering the events near the end. The author does a great job with imagery that paints a vivid image in your mind’s eye. However, the actual end was a bit off. It was an ambiguous ending that made it seem like the author was trying a bit too hard to throw one last curve ball at you. I don’t believe he was. I believe that he had it planned from the beginning. However, the writing needs to have been tightened up a bit to pull it off more effectively than what he managed.
Even though my overall impression of this book wasn’t particularly high, I will say Nyctophobia is one of those books that needs to be read twice. It’s the type of book that has one of those revelations near the end that cause you to want to go back through and see if there were other clues that you missed. While it never truly engaged me, it more than mildly entertained me, and I can see people who like their horror a bit more Twilight Zone than I do definitely enjoying Fowler’s work. It has this laid back air of creepiness and mystery that should be savored like a fine wine. I just happen to hate wine.
Overall, it didn’t leave much of an impression, but I’m ridiculously picky at times, so don’t let my review dissuade you completely from giving it a shot.
Read Nyctophobia and make up your own mind. Buy it now on Amazon.
Disagree with this Nyctophobia review? Talk to me and tell me why!