Malice Lurks in Carol Goodman’s ‘The Widow’s House’ [REVIEW]
April 20, 2017 1 Comment
A couple hard on their luck, a decaying estate, and a creepy mystery. All the elements are here to make Carol Goodman’s new Gothic thriller, The Widow’s House, a total scream.
Jess Martin is a Brooklyn-based writer who can’t write. Or at least, he can’t seem to pen a decent follow-up to his bestselling debut novel, and the bills are piling up.
His wife, Clare, works as an editor so Jess can chase his dream. But she’s getting tired, and their marriage, not to mention their love life, isn’t what it used to be.
With the money from his first book gone and his advance for his second spent, they decide to leave the city and move to the Hudson River Valley where they both went to college, where Clare grew up, and where Jess was inspired enough to write his first book.
Although Jess dreams of living in a big house in the country to pen his second book, there’s little chance of that happening. However, their realtor has an idea and takes them to Riven House, a crumbling old estate occupied by their former literature professor.
The couple agrees to be caretakers at the estate in exchange for a small house on the property. Jess thinks he can write there, but Clare isn’t so sure this is a good idea. First of all, living this close to her childhood home dredges up far too many memories. Then there are the unearthly cries that drift across the property and awaken her in the wee hours of the morning.
I’ve been a fan of Gothic stories for as long as I can remember. I was practically weaned on stories like the Brontë sisters’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Other novels by Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Velda Johnston, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis A. Whitney lined my shelves. So I always have high expectations when I pick up a novel in the Gothic genre. The Widow’s House lives up to all them!
Both Riven House and the entire Hudson River Valley come to vivid life under Goodman’s skilled pen. She writes about them so well, so lovingly, that her affection for the vicinity is readily apparent. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this book alone increases tourism to the area, especially during apple harvest time. Readers will undoubtedly long to bite into apples that taste like caramel, which Goodman describes so well here we can almost feel juice dripping down our chins.
I also love how Goodman captures marriage in crisis. Readers will empathize with Clare, a woman who has made great sacrifices for her husband over the years, but who also seems to come in at second place to her spouse’s ego. We can’t help but feel sorry for her as she struggles to redefine herself as a writer in her own right and dares to dream about what life might have been like if she had made different choices. It is the little details Goodman sprinkles throughout the narrative that make our hearts ache for this woman.
Finally, Goodman excels at building terror. She doesn’t do it in a gory or horrific way. Rather, she builds slowly, layer upon layer, cooking up the perfect recipe that blends domestic drama with inexplicable heart-pounding suspense and results in a decadent, delicious surprise. As the mysterious elements are unveiled, from the fog shrouded wetlands to the baby’s cries in the middle of the night, the downright creepy house which would send most people running for the hills, and the tragic history that shrouds the entire estate, there are many reasons for the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. But it never feels overdone, or even cliche. Instead, this is fresh fiction which is as easy to consume as a hot toddy on a cool night.
Those who miss the Gothic stories of yesteryear and love a fascinating tale of psychological suspense, Carol Goodman’s The Widow’s House is the story for you. It is everything a novel should be: menacing, foreboding, thoughtful, thrilling, and absolutely impossible to put down. If this book isn’t optioned by Hollywood and turned into a film, someone out in La La Land is sleeping on the job.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Her books have been translated into 16 languages.
The Widow’s House is brought to you in association with TLC Blog Tours.