Publication date: eBook 29/11/18, paperback 21/03/19
Genre(s): Fiction – Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural
Estate Agent Clara is struggling to make a sale. With her abusive ex-husband on the brink of finding where she’s hiding, she needs to make a commission soon or lose her chance to escape.
Boleskine House on the shores of Loch Ness has remained unsold for years, and Clara is sure that an ‘innocent’ fire will force the price down. But the perfect crime soon turns into the perfect nightmare: there was a witness, a stranger in the village, and he’s not going to let Clara get away with it that easily…
Thank you to NetGalley, Quercus, and the author, Neil Spring, for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Oh my, Neil Spring has done it again. What a page-turner! I thought his other books, The Ghost Hunters and The Lost Village, were fantastic reads (I’ve yet to read The Watchers yet, but it’s on my TBR list!), but Neil has topped them with his latest eerie offering, The Burning House.
Inspired by the real Boleskine House — a mansion overlooking Loch Ness, and once home to occultist Aleister Crowley — The Burning House tells the story of an estate agent, Clara, who has fled from her abusive husband to start a new life in a remote Scottish community. Clara becomes caught up with a stranger, Oswald Catternach, who witnessed her set fire to Boleskine to drive the price down and earn a much-needed sale — and before long, she becomes entangled in his dark plans, which are centred around Boleskine.
A deeply unsettling undercurrent pervades this book — it’s full of tension and suspense from the very first page, with Boleskine House and Loch Ness painted in a chilling, atmospheric way. By the second half of the book, the feeling I had of being somewhat unsettled gave way to a more intense feeling of terror and dread; this book is not one for the faint-hearted, depicting some very dark scenes of black magic, violence, and domestic abuse. But the violent scenes, while shocking, don’t feel gratuitous. It is the insidious psychological terror within this book that’s most unsettling of all.
The characters in this book are vivid and three-dimensional — I found myself really caring about Inghean, a young woman with learning difficulties, in particular — and I really disliked the character of Karl, Clara’s abusive husband, I think more so than Oswald! Perhaps because Karl’s such a complex character, capable of the occasional spark of humanity amongst all his terrible actions, unlike Oswald, who lacks humanity altogether. And I felt that Boleskine House was as much a character — and as complex a character — as Clara, Oswald, Inghean and Karl.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. I always feel like I’m in safe hands when I pick up a Neil Spring novel, despite the dark places they explore, and this book did not disappoint.