Wednesday 17 February 2021

Crooked Houses - 'The Devil Will Be at the Door' by David Surface

We return to the US for the next story in this anthology from Egaeus Press. The story is told from the perspective of a clergyman's son who begins by recalling his father's habit of telling a spooky tale to kids on a bus ride. The storytelling has to end when one boy commits an atrocious crime. Later, at university, the main character encounters an older student who is doing research into similar stories. They talk to someone who has visited a strange house, but did not go inside. 

This is a story about stories, about the way the haunted house always exists. In a way, the houses in a million anecdotes are all that same house, one that can never be truly located or explored. Or at least, not in such a way that the legend is debunked, or confirmed. It merely persists. Attempts to establish facts fail, because the legend protects itself, guards its unfathomable truth with cunning and ferocity. Thus the narrator survives his visit to the house but knows that he has only been granted a temporary reprieve.

This is a cracking story that straddles the ground between the literary short story and old-school horror, complete with things glimpsed in flashes of lightning. Sometimes you get the feeling the author had as much fun writing a story as you get from reading it, and this is one of those cases.

More from this running review very soon. If I don't stray too far...

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