Book Review: Devil House

DEVIL HOUSE | John Darnielle
01.25.2022 | Picador
Rating: 4/5 stars


Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That’s what his mother always told him when he was a child. Years later, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success—and a movie adaptation—to his name, along with a series of subsequent less notable efforts. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: to move into the house where a pair of briefly notorious murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected teens during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Chandler finds himself in Milpitas, California, a small town whose name rings a bell—his closest childhood friend lived there, once upon a time. He begins his research into the murders with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected—back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.

Devil House is probably one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. This isn’t what I would qualify as a standard horror story and it most certainly is not a haunted house story. What readers receive is more along the lines of a fictionalized true crime story examining the impacts that the investigation into these cases takes on not only the victims and the possible suspects, but also on the writer. There are still horror vibes mixed within the eerie retellings and revisitings of what happened in both of the murderous cases discussed.

Once I started to understand that this wasn’t going to be the book I initially thought it would be, I started to feel myself embrace what was at hand. Darnielle does a great job of breaking this story into multiple parts that examine different storylines and timelines. It’s a little hard to tell at times who is actually narrating the story, but I was so engrossed in what was happening and what could happen that I didn’t mind this issue. There is one part in the middle of the story that features an Old English story that I’m still not sure I understand why it was included. People who are smarter than me probably have explained the link in their reviews. 

I recommend this book to anyone who loves true crime and has the time to immerse themselves into a story that is intricately layered. 

A huge thank you to Picador for my gifted copy!

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