The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
One of my favorite horror stories is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is not your standard horror story, yet more of a psychological horror story. The main character, Eleanor, is a shy, introverted young woman who was invited to be part of a paranormal investigation for a weekend at a haunted house. Eleanor was chosen to be part of the investigation because she demonstrated “poltergeist tendencies” in her youth. Other supporting characters are Theodora, a woman who is the polar opposite of Eleanor; Luke, the heir to the house; Dr. Montague, the squirrelly scientist in charge of the investigation.
Told from a point of view of an unreliable narrator, it’s unclear whether the paranormal activity is affecting everyone equally or are we peering into Eleanor’s unstable, inner psyche? The special part of this story is Jackson’s subtle descriptive approach of the haunting. Through all of her vagueness, she embeds key clues within the story pointing to a specific ghost haunting the premises. Overall, the haunting operates via torment, wearing down Eleanor’s psychic defenses until she can’t differentiate between her distorted inner thoughts and reality. And at times, neither can the reader.
Stay tuned until my next book review this week, which is heavily inspired by The Haunting of Hill House and its author, Shirley Jackson: Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell.
RATING: FIVE STARS
Deep Winter is a crime noir novel that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it.For today’s Memorable Monday, I’m reviewing this small town murder story by Samuel W. Gailey.
RATING: 5 STARS
A brutal murder in an isolated small rural Pennsylvania town sets off a chain of events made more complicated by the town’s dark secrets. Told from several points of view over a short period of time, this was a fascinating “old school” type read with a chilling noir feel. I usually don’t like head hopping characters, as it becomes confusing to keep track of all the characters. Yet, Mr. Gailey described several character’s point of view with skill. At the center of this story is Danny, a twenty-four year old who is mentally challenged due to a childhood near drowning accident. Since the accident, Danny lost some of his mental capabilities, but physically continued to grow into a two hundred fifty pound man. Most of the locals are intimidated by Danny’s large build, but he’s actually a gentle giant. Some people have tormented him since childhood, including the town’s deputy.The exception is Mindy, his only childhood friend who shares the same birthday with him. After Danny decides to visit Mindy on her birthday to give her a present, he discovers her naked and in a twisted heap on the floor.
Mr Gailey creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere within the tightly woven plot, giving us an authentic taste of small town life. Everyone knows every one else’s business and people tend to never leave the town. Deep Winter gives the reader a dark look at human nature, how people are quick to make assumptions and judge others. The overall theme of this book is about judgement and empathy.
Deep Winter is a chilling, fast paced crime fiction. I highly recommend it for those who love crime fiction.
ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
It’s Monday, so it’s time for MEMORABLE MONDAY BOOK REVIEW, where I review one of my favorite books. Today’s book is “The Crimes of Paris” written by husband and wife writing team, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.
I love books allowing me to travel back in time. Add detective stories, art and Paris and I’m swooning. The Crimes of Paris is about the crimes that took place in Paris from the late 1800’s to the beginning of World War I. An intriguing tale of the darker side of a city, hums with a cast of characters, from artists, anarchists and aristocrats to street thieves and the foremost crime detection pioneers. The theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 initially draws you in, but the remaining part of the book deals with several murders, detectives and street gangs. Along with the several French revolutions during the 19th century, came changes to its urban landscape. Changes in technology and scientific thinking enabled the police to solve crimes that had previous remained unsolved.
The book’s strength lies in its descriptions of other famous and not so famous crimes. We’re introduced to a host of historical figures: Vidocq, France’s first real detective; Bertillon, who developed the science of anthropometry; Picasso, who was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa, (although he wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the crime); the Bonnot gang, anarchists who were the first to escape the scenes of their crimes via car and more.
A minor negative of the book is the vaguely linked connections between the Mona Lisa theft and the other described crimes.
The book is so mesmerizing that I read it in three evenings. I couldn’t sleep until I finished it. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.
The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection
Fun Fact: In 2001, Tom Hoobler (who co-authored the book with his wife) appeared on the TV show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and with help from his wife (who was his phone-a-friend) he won $500,000. The Hooblers used part of the money to spend a month traveling in Italy and decided to use the rest to try to write a book for adults.
by Nelson Algren
“This was the true jungle, the neon wilderness. Sometimes, the dull red lights, off and on, off and on, made the spilled beer along the floor appear like darkly flowing blood. Sometimes the big juke sang.”
If you only have time to read one Algren book and want to understand him, then The Neon Wilderness is the book for you. Using his blunt style of writing, Algren vividly describes the struggles of drug dealers, hustlers and hookers during 1940’s Chicago. The people who saw the American dream as a pure illusion. Surviving in a world of crime by crime, yet they’re always the ones who get punished, always the biggest losers of the game. A shared feeling of humanity grows into the reader, that in the end, you care for every single character.
“The Captain Has Bad Dreams,” a story of a captain overseeing sentencing of criminals, is one of my favorite stories. Despite Algren showing the poor as “mean and stupid”, without sentimentalizing them, he delves into their unique human spirit, allowing the reader to feel compassion for them. As an important predecessor to the Beat Generation, Algren’s works should have a place on every dissident’s bookshelf.
The Neon Wilderness
Memorable Mondays are book reviews of my all time favorite books.