Grady Hendrix returns with his much-anticipated novel, HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE. The story follows a pair of siblings, Louise and Mark, who have recently inherited their parents’ home following their tragic deaths in a car accident. Having flown across the country from California, Louise arrives to find her brother already taking charge of the estate and moving forward without her authorization. While the two will get into more than a few spats prior to meeting with a lawyer to uncover the terms of their parents’ will, their shattered relationship is the least of their worries. The pair begin uncovering nefarious actions on the part of their dearly departed mother’s doll collection and as past trauma begins to bubble to the surface, the two see their childhood home under a new vile light.
I’ve read just about everything Hendrix has penned (outside of two of his early novels that are no longer in print) and I would be comfortable saying that HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE is his best work to date. Not only is the book sufficiently creepy and unnerving in all the best ways, Hendrix absolutely nails the strain and long-standing grudges that can sometimes exist amongst adult siblings. Louise’s frustrations with her younger brother stemming from her belief that he is a forever-failure who gives up when things become difficult and Mark’s inability to see his older sister as anything but an overachieving, overbearing know-it-all made the tension between the two radiate from the pages.
I always feel a little weird when recommending Hendrix to horror-buffs. Is the book wet-your-pants scary? Not really. Are there moments where I was disturbed by what was happening? Absolutely. I’m not great when it comes to any type of damage inflicted to the eyes and there was a moment that had me wincing while reading in the small hours of the night, gripping the dust jacket and willing the scene to move on. The novel’s chief antagonist, a haunted puppet by the name of Pupkin, was devilishly sinister. There is a moment in the story’s third act that more than paid off the work Hendrix put in to build up this little bundle of plastic and fabric as a true threat.
If you’re already a fan of Grady Hendrix, I can confidently say you’ll enjoy this. It could be recency-bias, but I feel like HOW TO SELL A HAUNTED HOUSE is his most character-driven story yet. You really got into the heads of his protagonists on what feels like a deeper level than ever before and when Hendrix is dealing with themes of selective memory, it makes the story that much more interesting and memorable.