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The House That Horror Built


The House That Horror Built

Christina Henry began her career with dark retellings and alternate takes on classic fairy tales and fantasy stories like ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THE LITTLE MERMAID. It showed her appreciation for the origins of storytelling and allowed her to infuse her own style and creativity along the way. Her latest novel, THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT, is no exception.

Javier Castillo is living in Bright Horses, a mansion that was built from horror --- both from the money he has made as a world-famous movie director and from a domicile that reflects his love of the craft and can appear to some to resemble a museum of famous horror artifacts.

"THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT is a true slow-burn of a horror story with the suspense building in complex and unconventional fashion."

It is in this home that single mother Harriet “Harry” Adams works three days a week as a cleaner. However, she is micro-managed along the way by Javier, who is now not only a complete shut-in but also must directly supervise how she cleans every piece in his horror collection. Harry grew up in an overly protective and religious family environment that considered horror to be blasphemous. But it was during a sleepover party, when the host put on the film The Lost Boys, that Harry’s eyes were opened to an entirely new world. From that point forward, she was a horror aficionado.

While Harry loves being in Javier’s home and fully appreciates his horror collection, there have been some strange occurrences lately. For instance, one room is always locked that she is forbidden to enter, and she swears she has heard cries of "Help me!" coming from there. Harry is also raising a son, Gabe, who shares her love of all things horror. They recently found out that their apartment building is being transformed into a private home rental, and they have two months to vacate.

Javier invites Harry and Gabe to dinner and takes an instant, almost uncomfortable liking to Gabe. Harry is well aware that part of the reason Javier shies away from public attention is that his own son, Michael, disappeared after being accused of murdering his girlfriend. As a result, Javier became estranged from his wife. Harry is now worried that Javier is trying to make up for what he lost with Michael through Gabe. When he learns of their housing issue, Javier offers to put them up until they can find a new place.

Harry’s fears of the mansion soon travel beyond just hearing voices. She swears that the costume of one of Javier’s horrific creatures has been moving and looking at her. It all blows up when Javier hosts a dinner party that includes the stars of his films, Daniel and Amina. Daniel is the actor who wore the costume that Harry believes is possessed. Amina, who seems jealous of Harry and protective of Javier, is pushed by the costume. She almost falls down a tall flight of stairs and blames an unsuspecting Harry. Harry and Gabe head home, only to learn on the news the next morning that Amina died tragically due to a fall from a window at Bright Horses.

They temporarily move in with Javier, even though the constant hounding from the media outside the mansion makes living there intolerable. Daniel is there to help with all of the police involvement in the wake of Amina’s death. Harry, meanwhile, cannot help but wonder if whatever is haunting the house played a part in what happened, even if Amina was quite intoxicated at the time of her death. The odd happenings really ramp up, and the secrets of the house and Javier’s own past will come crashing down on everyone in unexpected ways.

THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT is a true slow-burn of a horror story with the suspense building in complex and unconventional fashion. It is a nice next step for Christina Henry, who truly respects classic storytelling and now has had much success taking her work into the darker corners of fiction.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 15, 2024

The House That Horror Built
by Christina Henry