Greetings from the Ether,
Something you need to know about me: there are so many reasons I enjoy reading horror. One thing I love about this genre is there is something to fit the eclectic taste of every reader. This diversity keeps me engaged, interested, and surprised with what horror has to offer. Sometimes I want to immerse myself in a certain atmospheric mood or experience a terrible build-up of dread. Other times, I want to taste the thrill of impending danger or explore the “what-ifs” of the supernatural. Well, I am extremely excited to report that Catherine Cavendish’s The Haunting Of Henderson Close is a special case, in that it contains a little bit of all-of-the-above.
The story begins with a unique premise. Hannah is reinventing herself and she has accepted a job as a tour guide of the historic Henderson Close, an old town from the 1800s that has since been built over in the modern day. Tourists pay to experience the novelty of exploring this historic—and possibly haunted—attraction. This set-up alone had me intrigued right from the get-go. I sometimes forget that there are certain places where whole cities have been completely built over with new developments. The idea that—in addition to the usual sewers—there could also be entire forgotten towns underneath our feet is something that both compels and frightens me. What closed-off worlds are hidden beneath our streets? What creatures and entities might be lurking in these lost spaces? Needless to say, visiting one of these built-over towns—wandering through dark buildings and alleys cast in perpetual shadow—would be creepy enough without any ghosts.
The atmosphere of this book is palpable. Because of its basis in the history of Henderson Close, it often has the feel of a historical novel even though it’s set in modern times. There is a pervasive feeling of dread throughout, as well as a healthy dose of ambiguity. Are these characters really experiencing strange phenomena, witnessing unexplainable things? Or could it simply be their mental state, the power of suggestion, or the result of overactive imaginations influenced by the creepy surroundings? The question remains: are there ghosts in Henderson Close?
And although this is definitely horror, the book almost has that feeling of an old school “who done it”—except, of course, the mystery at the heart of this tale is much more sinister and frightening. The story has so many of the elements I look for in horror fiction: compelling and interesting characters, demon and ghost lore, a thrilling plot, and a surprisingly dark and molten core. There is a really horrific scene near the end of the book that is utterly jarring (in a good way) after having been lulled by the author into a false sense of security. Just as you begin to think this is your run of the mill haunting, it turns into something decidedly more sinister. I also love the way this book subtly (yet poignantly) explores themes of female independence and toxic masculinity.
And that ending. I really did not see it coming. I am a huge fan of twist endings (especially ones that are well-executed) and this is no exception! With only a couple pages left for resolution, my mouth hanging open in shock, like wtf just happened?
Cavendish is a new-to-me author and I’m thrilled to have discovered an author with a significant back catalog for me to sink my teeth into. This one is a pretty quick—though thought-provoking and compelling read—and it’s especially great for those cozy weekend days with plenty of time for uninterrupted reading. This unsettling tale is one that you’re going to read while tucked in somewhere safe—like under your covers with a comforting cup of hot tea for extra reassurance.
First and foremost, she is passionately devoted to the craft of horror and weird fiction. Last year, she had two fiction publications: “Redemption” in Automata Review and “Birth” in the November issue of Unnerving Magazine—a special Stephen King themed issue. For three years, she was a contributing writer on the blog Dwarf + Giant, where she reviewed books and interviewed authors. Some of her favorites over there are: a review of Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, an interview with Paul Tremblay, and a contribution to a special Halloween series initiated by The Last Bookstore. Currently, she is the Creative Director and co-host of a dark fiction podcast called Ladies of the Fright (http://www.ladiesofthefright.com.) In a former life, she was the Editorial Assistant for IDEA Fitness Journal, where she gained real-world editorial experience and knowledge of the periodical publishing industry. She also researched and wrote the Buzz, Member Spotlight, and Product Showcase for IFJ, in addition to the occasional feature article.