Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: The House that Horror Built

Author: Christina Henry

Publisher: Titan Books

The House that Horror Built

Reviewed by: Sarah Deeming

Other details: Paperback £9.99

The House that Horror Built by Christina Henry

Sarah Deeming

Harry is a lifelong horror film fan, so when she gets a job cleaning for renowned horror director Javier Castillo, she jumps at the chance. Castillo’s Chicago mansion is filled with props, posters, and paraphernalia from her favourite films, and Henry spends her days caring for these items. She should be having the time of her life, and she is respectful of Castillo’s privacy, refusing to ask about the family scandal that forced him from Hollywood. But when Harry starts hearing voices in empty rooms and seeing empty props move, her thoughts can’t help centring on the whereabouts of Castillo’s missing family. The house has secrets that she can’t ignore, but uncovering them may result in her losing more than just her job.

As a horror fan myself, I was drawn to this book straight away and really connected with Harry from the beginning. The story is told almost exclusively from her point-of-view in the present, with the occasional short chapter about her past life in an ultra-strict religious family who did not approve of her film choices. These chapters are mirrored with short chapters from Castillo’s past, telling the reader about the scandal that Harry only guesses about. I found the way these three different chapter perspectives opened the story, giving us insights into Harry and Castillo’s characters.

Harry herself is a compelling character. A 30-something-year-old single mum with a teenage son, Gabe, trying to keep their heads above water in Chicago in the latter stages of the Covid pandemic. Work is hard to come by; Gabe is facing all the trials of high school with more affluent kids facing the painful truth that he can’t have everything they do, and Harry has no support network. It’s a bleak existence made worse by her new landlord choosing to sell the house she lives in, meaning she has to look for a new place to live. All these financial pressures explain why Harry ignores the creepy things in the house and tolerates the very strict rules placed on her when she’s working. Simply put, she cannot afford not to, and this makes her whole situation even harder.

Without giving away any spoilers, I think the reader is meant to know who the true monster is in the story and that knowledge, along with a steady build of supernatural incidents, heightens the story’s tension. I couldn’t put the book down because the pacing, although slower than other horror books you might read, was consistently building, and the tension never dropped for a moment, using sinister and creepy moments to move the plot along rather than jump scares. My only criticism was the ending was too abrupt. After building a connection with the characters, I wanted to know how they coped after the ending rather than leaving it on the sharp end we got.

That said, I really enjoy The House the Horror Built, and I think it is a perfect example of why Henry is such a big name in the horror genre. Highly recommended.

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