Skip to main content

The Apartment


The Apartment

THE APARTMENT defies preconceptions. “Horror” these days tends to conjure up images of folks running in terror through the woods while being pursued by a masked killer who seemingly cannot be stopped. This book, by contrast, is a slow boil that sinks the hook early with a sense that all is not well while creating an overall air of unpredictability that continues to its chilling conclusion.

The narrative alternates between the voices of the members of a married couple named Mark and Steph. S. L. Grey utilizes an interesting device here, as Mark’s narration is in the first person present while Steph’s is in the first person past. Another notable element is that this is not a “he said, she said” account; each narrative advances the story further while occasionally filling in past blanks.

"Grey creates such a state of unease that after reading THE APARTMENT, one may be loathe to ever leave town --- or maybe even home --- again."

And what a story it is. When we initially meet husband and wife, they are still emotionally recovering from an armed invasion of their comfortable home in Cape Town. While the couple wasn’t physically harmed --- an anomaly in what has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world --- they feel emotionally violated, particularly because of the danger to which Hayden, their very young daughter, was exposed. Mark is carrying around a huge barrel of guilt due in part to his total lack of ability to protect his family in any way, of which Steph is all too aware. He also has other issues that are gradually revealed throughout the course of the book, which contributes greatly to what subsequently occurs.

It becomes obvious that Mark and Steph need a change of scenery. The family’s financial situation makes a vacation seem all but impossible until Steph discovers that an apartment in Paris is being offered on a house-swapping website. The Petits, the couple offering their apartment, seem to be charming and very cosmopolitan, and the photographs of their home seal the deal. However, what Mark and Steph find when they arrive at the Petits’ address is hardly what they expected. The apartment is a short step or two above horrendous and is located in a building that is abandoned except for an extremely strange woman camped out on the top floor who seems bent upon driving them away. The Petits themselves never show up in Cape Town and cannot be reached otherwise.

Mark and Steph find some very unusual items in the apartment. Mark is also seeing and hearing things that may not --- and cannot --- be there. Then things get worse, as the vacation that was supposed to recharge the couple’s marital batteries depletes them entirely. When they find out what is really going on, the revelation only creates more questions, ones that are answered to some degree but that are paid for with bitter and bloody coin.

Grey --- a pseudonym for the author team of Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg --- takes the “fish out of water” plot and dresses it up in modern and frightening clothes. Anyone who has ever fallen prey to unscrupulous vacation rental sites will readily identify with Mark and Steph. Grey creates such a state of unease that after reading THE APARTMENT, one may be loathe to ever leave town --- or maybe even home --- again.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 28, 2016

The Apartment
by S. L. Grey