Unbury Carol was my introduction to Josh Malerman, and if you read my short review you’ll see that I read it in less than 24 hours. Malerman is a master of grabbing you and not letting go. A House at the Bottom of a Lake is no different, but since it is a novella instead of a novel, you’ll get through it in half the time!
The quick teenage summer love that blooms over this house at the bottom of a lake is fast, and having something that only the two of them share brings them even closer, even faster. They dive to see the exterior of the house, and notice that it’s furnished. Then they come back with a dive suit and venture into the foyer. Then they both learn to scuba and begin exploring the entire house, even sleeping on a raft above the house overnight so they are ready to begin again right away the next morning. The feeling that I remembered from Unbury Carol was this sense of claustrophobia blended with terror and a small sense of hope. That feeling is recreated here as you will constantly worry about them drowning due to getting stuck, their equipment failing, the house collapsing, etc. but you will also want to know what’s behind that next door, and be excited when they find something new.
It isn’t long before something sinister begins to rear its head, a spirit under the water banging and grabbing and attempting to trap. At first it seems like a typical horror story, that they are doomed to be taken and drowned, you begin to settle in to the familiar pattern, but Malerman immediately jerks you out of that comfort zone by having the male MC remember a fort he made with his friends out of a dishwasher box that became infested with brown recluse spiders. One of his friends refused to go back, the other insisted on going back, and the MC went back even though he felt like he shouldn’t and witnessed his friend get bit several times. This is described so suddenly and so graphically that afterwards all you will be able to see the house as is an underwater fort infested with spiders that the female MC insists on returning to, but that he knows they should leave alone.
If you want a book that you will speed through, a book that is both terrifying and exhilarating, a book that intertwines the terror and hope of young love with the terror and hope of discovery, you must go and pick up this novella. You won’t be disappointed.
Support Angry Angel Books with a donation or a book!