Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE - Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman
This Is Horror

I stumbled onto Josh Malerman quite by accident. (And I apologize for the stumble). I was in a reading group at work. The book, BIRD BOX, was the first title selected. I knew upon finishing that book that here was an author I'd follow.

The novella, A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE, was a fast read. One sitting. I couldn't move until I found out what happened next, and after that, and then reached the ending. Call it puppy love. A coming of age tale. Whatever you want, this story is what it is.

James and Amelia agree to go on a date. The awkward asking, and accepting were reminiscent of my own clumsy attempts at dating. Hard not to laugh, thankful it was the characters in the book experiencing the "trauma" and not me this time. (And whether I've gotten any better at the art remains to be seen).

Determined to do something different, James suggests the two go canoeing. Strangers. Canoeing. What could be more romantic? James knows. A second, less crowded lake. One away from the speedboats, and loud intoxicated teens in swim trunks and bikinis.

What is better than a quiet, out of the way second lake? Finding a hidden third lake. And on this third lake, under the surface of placid water they see a roof. Determined to explore the depths, the two find more than a roof. They discover an entire house.

It's their secret. They promise to adhere to two rules. No asking How. No asking Why. And then they explore. Every inch.

Only exploring every inch forces more and more questions. How did the house get there? How come no one else knows about it. Why are the laws of physics not applicable below the surface? The items on shelves, and on end tables remain on shelves, and on end tables . . . when by all rights they should be floating, or ruined by the water.

And yet they are not.

Worse. Who is walking around on the second floor? Why are the floorboards creaking? And who was that laughing at them?

Josh Malerman's latest work is chilling. I wanted more. Many times I found myself holding my breath while I was reading, but didn't realize it until I needed air. A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE was intense. The suspense is constant; the anticipation. The ending is heartbreaking, and necessary, with just a hint, a faint glimmer of hope. It was, in short, an awesome read!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy

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