Devil House

by John Darnielle
First sentence: “Mom called yesterday to ask if I was ready to come home yet I went directly to San Francisco from college, and I’ve been in Milpitas for five years now, but she holds fast to her he story that eventually I’m coming back to San Luis Obispo.”
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Review copy passed along to me from my boss.
Content: There is some mild swearing, including a few f-bombs, descriptions of grisly murders, and domestic abuse. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

The problem with a book like this is that the plot is secondary. The why you need t read the book, the reason to keep coming back, is for, well. Hm. I was going to say the story, but that’s what the plot usually is, right?

The “plot” is following true-crime writer Gage Chandler, as he works to unravel the mystery of a set of grisly murders in the “Devil House” in Milpitas in the mid-1980s. But, it’s more meandering than that. It explores the story of Chandler’s first book, about the White Witch, and the story of the Devil House murders, with a side detour through a weird medieval section.

But, while the story was interesting, and kept me engaged (they usually say “nonfiction that reads like fiction” but this was “fiction that reads like memoir”), I think it was the slow burn that kept me coming back. I wanted to know where Darnielle was going to take me next, what thing Chandler was going to think or find or reveal. And in the end, I realized this book was about the myriad of ways we look at each other, and about who is entitled to tell someone’s story. And maybe that’s what kept me coming back and turning pages.

Whatever it was, I found it fascinating to reflect on, and interesting to be immersed in. Definitely worth the time.

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