I always have trouble remembering that the ‘author endorsements’, on other author’s books, are as subjective as what I’m writing here. So when the front cover of ‘House Infernal’ told me that Edward Lee was ‘The living legend of literary mayhem’ and that I should ‘read him if [I] dare’ I was really up for reading this book. After all, if Richard Laymon says Lee is a good author then he must be, surely?
Well, ‘House Infernal’ isn’t a thick book and I finished it over the course of a day, which says good things about the content. However, I was left feeling strangely let down by the end of it…
The old Priory was originally built as a retreat for clergymen but harbours some vile occult secrets in it’s past. Venetia Barlow is about to find all this out for herself over the course of one summer spent renovating the Priory. There are ghosts, there is depravity but there is a lot more going on and not all of it within the Priory. Venetia will gradually learn more from a long dead priest who has made contact with her from the very streets of Hell itself. He has his own part to play and the consequences of this will have a great bearing on the futures of both Hell and Earth…
Like I said, I flew through this book and enjoyed the time that I spent reading it. Lee lets events unfold at a pace slow enough not to give too much away but fast enough (at the same time) to keep the pages turning nicely. As the reader, it was good to see things, and events, click together gradually and the overall picture build up. Although I had a pretty good idea about how this was going to end, the specifics were hidden from me and I was surprised at how this one turned out.
All of the characters were drawn well and were people that I wanted to read more about, either because I liked them or because they were pivotal to the plot. Lee’s greatest achievement in ‘House Infernal’ however is the creation of an intricate and fully functioning society in Hell. The detail is minute and everything consistently works to a set of rules laid out right at the beginning. I was certainly impressed by the thought that had gone into this.
So what went wrong? It’s simple. I enjoyed the book but it didn’t scare me and it wasn’t particularly horrifying. For a work of ‘Horror Fiction’ this is a pretty awkward failing. For all the fact that it was well written I just didn’t feel any tension at all. This may just be me; my expectations may be different to yours and ‘House Infernal’ may give you nightmares. Hopefully it will as it’s not a bad book and I think horror fans will enjoy it, it just didn’t work for me.
Six out of Ten