Eerie is a self-published horror/haunted house novel by the Crouch brothers Blake and Jake. The story starts with a father and two motherless siblings, Grant and Paige, in a harrowing car crash where they all survive, but gain mental scars in the process. Their father is reduced to a shell, living in a care home.
The story swiftly moves into their adulthood where the siblings are now estranged. Grant is a Seattle detective looking for two missing men. Searching reunites him with his sister, now living in a brownstone and making her living from high-class prostitution. He immediately sees that something, apart from her living, is not right with her. Her skin is sallow, her eyes sunken, and she fears his presence. Does she have anything to do with the men’s disappearance?
The book reminds me of Chris Allinotte’s Turn Around short story in his Gathering Darkness collection, where something you cannot directly see follows you everywhere, driving you to madness. Similarly, here something lurks in Paige’s bedroom, sitting in her peripheral vision without ever revealing itself. The authors do a great job of raising neck hairs with this thing, making you read on to find out what it is, and what it wants with the men she services in her room.
You would think the siblings should leave, but it induces intense pain in them if they try, thus trapping them in the house, and the reader with them for the most part. The claustrophobia doesn’t grate like you might expect, but you might find yourself wanting a bit of fresh air. The horror intensifies when Grant invites an old friend, Don, who specialises in allaying people’s fears. Outraged at the invitation, Paige nevertheless agrees to let the man go up to her room, hoping he’s right about her fears being groundless. A few alarming noises later Grant charges up the stairs to see his old friend slash his throat as a result of what he has just experienced. Must be some beast you’re thinking.
The horror contrasts nicely with the siblings’ dialogue, their present tension explained by snippets of information about their past – about how they evaded social services and lived by themselves as kids; how he wanted to protect her and how she resented every second of his care. Now they’re thrown together into this hell, they have to care for each other and deal with the moral issue of protecting themselves by inviting more of Paige’s clients, their pain reducing as the monster does what it needs to the men.
So, a cracking read… spoiled by an ending that might have most readers grinding their teeth in frustration. I guessed much of what the monster is about half way through, and that got me reading to the end. I thought it could be interesting, like a riff on the Urscumug in Mythago Wood. However, what actually happens flaws the whole thing. This could depend on your perspective – it is sort of spiritual – but I couldn’t help think “Selfish, selfish, selfish.” It fails to give a satisfactory reason for Don killing himself. This, along with the undercooked romance between Grant and his police partner doesn’t help, undermining what could have been a little corker of a novel.
Overall, I enjoyed reading most of this, but that ending is so disappointing.