A House With Good Bones
- Author: T. Kingfisher
- Genre: Horror
- Publication Date: March 28, 2023
- Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.
CONTENT WARNING: fatphobia, blood, gore
A haunting Southern Gothic from an award-winning master of suspense, A House With Good Bones explores the dark, twisted roots lurking just beneath the veneer of a perfect home and family.
“Mom seems off.”
Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.
She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.
But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.
To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.
Once again, I had a wonderful buddy read with Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog. Both of us are a little bit on the scaredy cat side of things when it comes to horror, but Kingfisher’s books seem to fall more on the side of what I’d call … cozy horror? If that’s even a thing, and if it isn’t, it is now. Let me get into why I call it that.
I’m certainly no connoisseur of horror books, but I have read a few Kingfisher novels, and really enjoyed each of them. Just like in her other books, she incorporates a wonderful mix of dry, witty, sarcastic humor and just the right amount of creepy tension to make this the kind of book that we couldn’t put down. In fact, we found ourselves rushing through the discussions so that we could get back to reading to find out what happens next.
I absolutely loved the main character, Sam. She’s fat. She’s smart and nerdy. She’s in her early 30s. She’s hilarious. And her internal banter was the kind of internal banter that I find myself engaging in. As an archaeoentomologist, she’s got a doctorate and works on archaeological digs, examining bugs to learn more about how people of the past lived. But it also gives her an almost encyclopedic knowledge of insects, and she gets excited about them. I love a nerdy character, and Kingfisher wrote a fantastic fat character. Despite growing up with plenty of fatphobic comments, she has a healthy relationship with her body, and I absolutely loved everything about Sam. Part of what I especially enjoyed was the way that she spent so much of the book trying to fit what was happening into the paradigm of scientific and logical thinking, even when there wasn’t necessarily a logical or scientific explanation possible.
The relationships in the story were wonderful. Sam and her mother, her brother, and the other people in the neighborhood were all done beautifully. There were some relationships that were healthy and supportive, others that were unhealthy and dysfunctional, but they all felt incredibly realistic. Every character who was introduced was well-developed and nearly all of them played an important role in the story, and I enjoyed getting to know each of their different quirks. I have to admit that I adored Phil, and was team Phil all the way.
As for the horror, instead of being terrifying, this was more creepy than anything. That isn’t to say that I’m not going to struggle to fall asleep, because I’m pretty sure that I will, for at least a couple of nights. And I’m definitely going to avoid rosebushes for a while. But what I most enjoyed was that this was so much more than a haunted house story. While the haunted house reveal was relatively obvious, that wasn’t the twist in the story. The big reveal was so much deeper and creepier than anything I was expecting, and I joked around with Becky that I’d have to change my gasp factor to an “eek factor” because I literally kept saying, “eek” while reading. Becky and I really worked to figure things out, and no matter how hard we tried, we got close but didn’t quite realize how deep this reveal was going to run.
Overall, this is peak Kingfisher at her finest, and I loved every second of this hilarious, creeptastic story. It had me laughing out loud, and I loved the fact that it taught me a few random facts about bugs and vultures (yes, vultures). I’m not going to be the most fun person at parties if I bust out these facts, but it’s definitely a fun book if you aren’t afraid of a little creepiness, and you like to laugh. As I said, cozy horror.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 18
Categories: Book Review