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Having It All: A Review of Brendan Duffy’s “House of Echoes”

Goodreads.com Description: “Akin to Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, House of Echoes is a debut thriller populated by achingly sympathetic characters, charged with psychological suspense, and rich with a small town’s strange history. A young New York City couple with a boy and a baby in tow, Ben and Caroline Tierney had it all…until Ben’s second novel missed the mark, Caroline lost her lucrative banking job, and something went wrong with 8-year-old Charlie. When Ben inherits land way upstate from his grandmother, the two of them began to believe in second chances. But upon arriving in Swannhaven, a town that seems to have been forgotten by time, they’re beset by strange sights and disconcerting developments…and they begin to realize they might have made their worst mistake yet. But what dark secret is buried in this odd place? And will Ben and Caroline figure it out soon enough to save their young family?”

I received an ecopy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

House of Echoes, Brendan Duffy’s debut thriller, reminded me of the traditional suspense stories of Rod Serling. Anyone old enough to have watched “Night Gallery”?

Night Gallery This series featured interesting stories. Back in the seventies, they were considered scary, but without a serious rewrite and modern special effects they don’t cut it for today’s audience.  Unfortunately, Duffy’s story was lacking that element of modern day suspense.

I actually liked the plot and the characters. My favorite was Ben. He was a writer with a lot on his plate–a bipolar wife, a very quiet son who was a magnet for bad things happening to him, an infant son and a mansion to renovate. His character was strong throughout the book. Although he gave himself a mental beating towards the end, he really did put his family’s needs before his own. I didn’t know what to think of Caroline. Even without her condition, I think she would have been a ‘pill’ to live with. She was demanding and a bit of a princess. Her needs always came first. Then, you learn that her condition was exasperated by a cup of tea! Charlie was not a likable kid–too quiet and just plain weird. By the end of the book, I started to like him. He came clean with his dad. The poor kid was just too scared to speak up. Since he had no friends his age, he was willing to befriend anyone. The rest of the cast, the town residents, were throwbacks to the Stepford Wives. And just like those women, they all shared one thought and mission no matter how wrong it was.

The big drawback for me was lack of action. I was nearly sixty percent into the book before it started to really pick up. I kept reading because the story was good. Plus, it was a ‘thriller’ so it had to have a major climax. House of Echoes was reminiscent of the thrillers I read as a kid in junior high–I read above my age level starting in third grade. Those books were slow moving but you kept reading simply to find out how it would end.

I was surprised to find a moral at the end of the tale: A man doesn’t need everything. He only needs those things that he can’t live without. Want to find out what that means? Pick up a copy of House of Echoes. Just be prepared to take a while reading it. You’re not going to finish this traditional suspense story in a couple of days.  But, I think the ending alone gives the book merit.

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