An Amateur Exorcist Story

Author: Nick Roberts

Daniel Hill has an idea to make some extra cash – a fixer-upper farmhouse in the isolated hills of West Virginia. This will mean moving his family there for the summer to oversee the renovations and get the house ready for sale, but a change is as good as a rest, right?

Nora, Nick’s pregnant wife, has more than one reason to go along with the plan. She has a secret – an indiscretion – that she wants to escape. If that means leaving her job and being cooped up in rural Virginia, well, she needs to do some kind of penance, right?

Alice, the teenage daughter, is hardly excited about the temporary move; that is until she sees Luke, the teenage hunk who helps around the farm. Maybe the move isn’t such a bad thing after all.

But the thing in the basement, barred in the well, held down by crucifixes, has unfinished business. When Daniel discovers the memoirs of the previous tenant, a backwoods, self-trained exorcist with a mission, he starts to piece together the strange events, the blackout moments, the vivid hell-fire tinged dreams. But by then, it might be too late. In one way or another, the demon has a hold on all of them now.

The Exorcist’s House is an interesting, amateur exorcist story with potential. The characters each have their own trauma, with Nick’s wife being the most well-rounded narrator, torn between guilt and her own desires to move on. But the complications are all surface, and while hints show deeper levels, the characters are incomplete, moving around the story in the way of all horror tropes: not taking warnings and weird happenings seriously, continuing to go into the creepy old basement, unbarring the ominous well, and denying the possibility of something supernatural and sinister until it is too late.

However, the story has a nice twist. Usually, in these types of house-with-bad-juju stories, the characters chose to stay for mostly lame reasons. “Yes,” they say, “there is something evil and ancient in this house . . . and it’s tried to kill me multiple times . . . but what the heck, I’m just going to keep living here instead of going to the Motel 8 down the road, which would literally take three seconds.” Here, however, the manifestation is more complex and ultimately not escapable. A nice twist, almost like an infection where once you have encountered the contagion, there is no escape. This works very well, forcing the characters to confront the enemy. It’s a nice solution, one that makes sense in the frame of the narrative and that is established and followed early on.

As the story progresses, there are some inventive moments, but they are interspersed with some plot holes. As with most demon/creature stories, the baddie disappears or is asleep-at-the-switch during pivotal moments. It’s not especially logical. And the characters’ actions, while sometimes smart, are usually not particularly inspired. Coupled with the simple writing and straight-forward shoot-from-the-hip narrative, the spooky atmosphere is diminished. Sometimes it reads more like a manuscript, a good idea, a great first draft, that still needs the soul stitched in.

Overall, The Exorcist’s House was a good book, engaging at times, but not especially different or unique. There are better exorcism stories, but this isn’t a bad entry in the genre, especially for fans. The Exorcist’s House is an enjoyable beach read for horror fans, an ok book that neither offends nor particularly inspires.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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