Thursday, April 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

This is a book review for House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school. When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over. House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole.

I wasn't sure what to make of this book. I was not sure if the author meant it to be scary, creepy, or just an engaging mystery. Ben Tierney and his wife Caroline have suffered through a lot of changes, namely the addition of their second child and Caroline's issues with the birth of the child. Through Ben's narration, we learn that Caroline was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after the birth of the second child. According to the doctors, the hormones of the pregnant brought out the illness. That was a bit confusing to me. Granted I don't have a lot of experience with Bipolar, but I was under the impression that symptoms started manifesting themselves somewhat earlier than when a person is in their 30's. And why wouldn't the hormones of the first pregnancy have brought out the illness? I really don't think the author did much research with this disease because it really just seemed like a secondary plot that didn't go anywhere. But I decided to suspend my belief with that one and just go with it. The Tierneys move to Swannhaven for a fresh start. They buy an estate called The Crofts, which includes a huge mansion of 65 rooms that overlooks the valley of Swannhaven.

One thing that Brendan Duffy did extremely well was the atmosphere. The house that the Tierneys move into is in upstate New York, but it might as well be on another planet. The town is isolated and the forest is vast and scary. The author did a great job at making me feel like I was right there with the family. It was creepy and I am not sure I would have been able to live in that house like the Tierneys. I think the author's mistake was that the book was very atmosphere heavy and the plot was lacking. There was so much attention paid to the setting that the book moved very slow.

Not long after the Tierneys move in, creepy stuff starts happening. I will spare you the details, but it involves severe violence to animals. The problem was that Ben dismissed the events as pranks played by townspeople because some of them were not happy the Tierneys were there, renovating the Crofts. The reason for their dislike is never really made clear. The assumption is that the town is one of those small towns with people who don't trust outsiders. Because of Ben's dismissal, it was hard for me to care very much either. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a book about a mystery surrounding unexplained events or a book about trying to earn the town's trust. The author does show Charlie's POV (their second child) and it indicates there is something more dangerous going on than just pranks. Here is the main issue: this book moves at a snail's pace. The ending was a bit of a surprise and it was unusual, but by the time I figured out what was going on, I didn't really care anymore. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one. There is not enough suspense or mystery in this one. It was not a compelling read.


  1. Interesting review, as always. It's a pity, really, because I see tons of potential in the cover, blurb and concept. Funny how the author could not make use of it...

  2. I've been reading this one (or not reading it really) for about 4 weeks now. I need to give it a proper go but it's not pulling me in at all.
    Sorry it didn't overly impress you either.

  3. Aw, I'm sorry it wasn't a good read. I mean I was definitely interested when you first started describing it. I love creepy stuff. Forests and old houses? Sign me up! But if the plot can't carry it, no thank you.