Whoa! Strap yourself in and hold on because Grady Hendrix has another tightly strung, gut-wrenching horror novel that will keep you up at night.
Siblings Louise and Mark Joyner are absolutely devasted at the death of their parents at the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Mark and Louise haven’t gotten along for years and would rather not be in each others’ company but the circumstances have forced them to work together to clear the family home and put it on the market. But upon arriving they notice how strange their parents’ final days must have been as mirrors are covered by newspapers and the attic door has been nailed shut. There isn’t much up there other than some old family puppets.
But when worn, one particular puppet won’t come off and it controls the movements of the wearer. Louise is forced to cut off her own brother’s arm to save him. But she can’t do the same when her daughter puts the puppet on her hand.
I am not generally a fan of horror stories featuring dolls or puppets – it seems like they’ve been done to death (pun intended) – so there was definitely a moment or two when I rolled my eyes. Fortunately this is a horror novel by Grady Hendrix, who fuses the horror with humor better than anyone else I’ve read, making this a delightful read.
There’s a small cast of characters here and Louise and Mark are just a little bit bland, letting Punkin the Puppet take the leading role. This is just a bit odd because most of the book is about setting up the characters of Louise and Mark, giving us a reason to care about them so that we can want them to survive the horror about to befall. It’s a lot of setup and I’m not entirely sure the payoff is there.
The payoff comes because of a minor character … Barb, ‘an expert on cursed dolls.”
“Don’t worry!” Barb laughed, seeing Louise’s expression. “Dolls and puppets come under the same department as far as the Lord is concerned. I do dolls, I do puppets, I once even did a blow-up s-e-x doll. Now, that one was wild, let me tell you. Come on inside and let’s pray together.”
Barb plays a small role here, but she (along with Aunt Gail, who introduces us to Barb) steals the book – I laughed out loud a number of times with her.
The final quarter of the book is a fast-paced rollercoaster ride – not only exciting but fear-filled. It was an absolute page-turner and it makes up for the earlier, slower-moving set-up.
This isn’t my favorite Grady Hendrix, but it’s well worth reading.
Looking for a good book? How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix is an often funny, yet still dark horror novel that is worth reading, but fair warning it relies on the horror trope of possessed dolls/puppets.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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How to Sell a Haunted House
author: Grady Hendrix
hardcover, 400 pages