Saturday, 17 September 2016

Creepy and Unexplainable - The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

"Yesternight upon the stair,
I met a girl who wasn't there
She wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish she'd...

...Carly." - Dawn Kurtagich, The Dead House, page 8

I cannot tell you what really happened in this story. The premise seems simple - twenty five years ago, Elmbridge High School burnt down and Carly Johnson went missing - but the execution is not. The story is told in everything from diary entries to police interviews to CCTV camera footage. On top of that, Carly is Kaitlyn and Kaitlyn is Carly. They share a body, one coming out during the day and the other at night. Dr Annabeth Lansing has diagnosed them with Dissociative Identity Disorder -

(You may know it under its old name, Multiple Personality Disorder.)

- But it's always been the two of them, as far back as they can remember. And there's another possible explanation. Something far more sinister... 

At the beginning of the story, all of the characters seem so trustworthy. Ari seems sweet, Brett seems hopeless (characters suffering from unrequited love always do), Scott seems funny. Naida is a loud, extroverted practicioner of Mala, a fictional type of magic with religious connotations. Kaitlyn, whose diary makes up much of the story, is full of bravado and anger. Of course she is, she's spent the last few months being told that she's a symptom rather than a person. But, as the story moves along, you realise that you don't know who any of these characters are at all. This is a story that runs on twists and ambiguity and I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that I have been thinking about it ever since I finished it and I still have no idea what the facts are. Who was right, Dr Lansing or Naida? Arguments can be made either way, and neither can explain everything.

I loved this book because it was a creepy, unexplainable horror, but it almost lost a star on the setting. It's set in England. 

Things that The Dead House got wrong about England -
  • We do not have red cups at parties. I don't know if this is actually an American thing or just an American film thing.
  • We don't have juniors and seniors. Year elevens would be ordinary students in their final year of GCSEs and year thirteens would be sixth formers or, possibly, upper sixth. And I know this is an American thing.
  • Kaitlyn correctly states that Halloween is less of a big deal over here. However, she is saying this as if to point out that Naida having a Halloween party is unusual. Given the ages of the characters, it's not really.
Those are just the things that I remember.

The book itself is absolutely gorgeous. The edges of the pages have been printed so that they appear singed by fire, there are coffee cup rings on some of the pages, and there's a great picture on the inside cover.

I definitely recommend The Dead House. It'll keep you guessing long after you've turned the final page.

Recommend me some creepy books! And, if you've read The Dead House, tell me who you think was right, Dr Lansing or Naida?