The Dead House may be his debut novel, Billy O’Callaghan is a seasoned writer and this novel showcases the author’s compelling talent. While it is tempting to label The Dead House as a ghost story, it’s just as much psychological mystery and Irish history.
Sometimes the past endures—and sometimes it never lets go.
This best-selling debut by an award-winning writer is both an eerie contemporary ghost story and a dread-inducing psychological thriller. Maggie is a successful young artist who has had bad luck with men. Her last put her in the hospital and, after she’s healed physically, left her needing to get out of London to heal mentally and find a place of quiet that will restore her creative spirit. On the rugged west coast of Ireland, perched on a wild cliff side, she spies the shell of a cottage that dates back to Great Famine and decides to buy it. When work on the house is done, she invites her dealer to come for the weekend to celebrate along with a couple of women friends, one of whom will become his wife. On the boozy last night, the other friend pulls out an Ouija board. What sinister thing they summon, once invited, will never go.
Ireland is a country haunted by its past. In Billy O’Callaghan’s hands, its terrible beauty becomes a force of inescapable horror that reaches far back in time, before the Famine, before Christianity, to a pagan place where nature and superstition are bound in an endless knot.
While The Dead House is definitely a tale about a haunted place (and haunted person), it is also much more. Descriptions are lovely and not overwrought., as in this foreshadowing as the narrator, Mike, says goodbye to Maggie after the weekend celebration.
Out in the distance, the water was deepening its colour, compressing more intently with every tidal pull from the shade of stone to that of unlit sapphire, and I could feel the insinuation of its crashing deep inside myself. A churning, as if I’d come to some brink and was about to be pulled in, as if I needed that.
If The Dead House were only about a menacing ghost, it still might be an intriguing read. But with themes of friendship and love as well as a study of how people deal with regret. Mike is in fact confessing this story.
If you enjoy reading about the Cornish coast and pre-Christian Ireland, then The Dead House will not disappoint.
Happy Reading, Susan C.
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