“On the ninth of April in 1972, a high school history teacher…had come home, and for reasons never made clear he spent the afternoon murdering his family…”
Now, decades later, Lacey and Eric Miszlak decide to buy the house at 571 Forrester Lane. It’s the beginning of summer, Lacey is pregnant, and they need a place to live. Lacey immediately falls in love with the house, and her husband likes the price. It seems like a win-win situation. So why is their real estate agent trying to talk them out of it?
“People died here” is all she will answer. The mere fact that people died in a house as old as the one on Forrester Lane should come as no surprise. It happens all the time. Of course, when odd and unexplainable things start becoming daily occurrences, the Miszlaks begin to probe, but they encounter a community of silence. Neither can get a direct answer from anyone. Convinced that something evil is at work, Lacey quietly digs deep to uncover its history. There’s a lot more to it than people died here.
"STARTER HOUSE is a true spine-tingler, from the first moment the reader meets its ghost to the last. This creepy psychological thriller defines the word 'eerie' and transcends the usual haunted house genre."
Besides finding a suitable home, the young couple has much to cope with that summer. Lacey is a teacher but won’t be going back to work come fall. Eric wants her to stay home with the new baby once it arrives, yet she’s not so sure about that. Her husband came from money, enjoying his wealth until recently, so he has a hard lesson to learn in how to save. His earnings aren’t up to what they once were, but at least he has a steady job with a family law firm. But he’s stuck handling all the “judies,” hopeless cases like the ones on television’s “Judge Judy,” hardly a satisfying use of his talents. And now it seems that one of the most hopeless clients, Lex Hall, has found his way to Eric, likely by design. Worse, he knows where Eric resides, because he himself once lived at 571 Forrester Lane.
Instead of uniting the Miszlaks, their new house seems to be pushing them apart. Eric spends more and more time at the office, while Lacey is at home, confined to her bed. Since day one, she has been seeing a young blond child who mysteriously drops in at random times. Lacey knows he isn’t real. Maybe he was once, but something happened to him that he won’t talk about. Now his ghost lingers, though his spirit isn’t at all benign. It’s filled with anger, and a child’s anger unleashed can be violent beyond imagination.
Since Lacey needs constant care, Eric enlists the aid of his mother-in-law, Ella Dane, against his wife’s wishes. He knows that Ella Dane drives her a little bit crazy, what with her herbal remedies and spiritual cleansing rituals, but the baby is at risk and Lacey must take it easy. But how can she, with the uneasy presence always lurking? Now she wonders if she should take her mother into her confidence. Surprisingly, despite Ella Dane’s usual hypersensitivity, she hasn’t yet become aware of the malevolent spirit, which might be evidence that he doesn’t exist. Is all that’s happening a figment of a pregnant woman’s mind? Is it possible she resents the child growing inside her enough to conjure up a reason for it to die?
STARTER HOUSE is a true spine-tingler, from the first moment the reader meets its ghost to the last. This creepy psychological thriller defines the word “eerie” and transcends the usual haunted house genre. You simply must find out what happened to make a child into such an evil presence. I look forward to much more from the very promising Sonja Condit, a talented author who deserves a wide readership for her hugely successful debut novel.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 8, 2014