When Jack and Stephanie Singleton take leave of the main road in Alabama at the behest of a belligerent lawman, neither one could have predicted how they would be summarily challenged from every vantage point during the next 24 hours. Life, death, and the fine line between insanity and reason would assault their senses non-stop as they individually fight for freedom and triumph over the evil surrounding them.
After traveling the circuitous route suggested by Alabama's finest and then encountering car trouble, married couple Jack and Stephanie take to their feet on a deserted road. Warned of dangerous, prankster-type inbreds, Jack and Stephanie already are feeling jittery when they spot an unlikely (albeit welcoming) house, The Wayside Inn. As darkness begins to fall, in they go --- and they are surprised by what they see. Nothing has prepared either for the elegant and opulent ambience found within the house.
A few brief moments of cursory observation is all they are afforded when another couple, Randy Messarue and Leslie Taylor, descends the staircase and the four begin mirroring each other's transportation woes. Then the lights go out, and the "game" commences amidst shouts, bumps, and a small girl's song.
Stephanie screams, which beckons the other three guests into the pantry and subsequently reveals an elderly broad-faced woman who starts giving orders from the kitchen. Confused, the four obey and are further shocked upon meeting the husband and son of the kitchen sergeant better known as Betty. What follows is the oddest, eeriest dinner imaginable. Yet when questions rip and no clear answers are offered, something inside the four makes them want to bolt --- and they attempt to do so. Betty suddenly begins yelling, "Get inside! It's him!" A quick glance outside at the mysterious shotgun-toting figure convinces Jack, Stephanie and the rest to retreat back into the house. A few minutes later, the ominous captor fixes the doors so they won't open, and suddenly an old soup can drops down the fireplace with a message none of the guests will ever forget. "Welcome to my house. House rules: 1. God came to my house and I killed him. 2. I will kill anyone who comes to my house as I killed God. 3. Give me one dead body, and I might let rule two slide. Game over at dawn."
The countdown begins. The terror of attempting to escape, finding no way out, and realizing that all the logical rules of normal life don't follow within the confines of the house paralyze the four. Material and immaterial, all shift and alter by the second, assaulting everyone's mental, emotional and spiritual reserves. Soon, each of the guests must face their own challenges by looking within themselves and countering what they find with life/death decisions. Who will make it out alive? Who can be trusted? What is true and what lies are being told? So many questions, so little time to decide.
Readers of HOUSE, like its fictional inhabitants, will find themselves bound to the story until the final page. Together, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker have achieved a stirring, troubling tale that is sure to have fans revisiting the final message of this frightening story for days on end debating and rethinking its life-altering conclusion.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011