Friday, June 7, 2013

House of Bones by Dale Bailey (2003)


House of Bones
by Dale Bailey (2003): Tense, sharply written haunted-house story about a Cabrini-Green-type public-housing estate in Chicago and the supernatural thing or things that haunt its abandoned corridors.

Stylistically, Bailey is a much wittier and more poetic prose writer than many of his contemporaries. Also somewhat unusually, House of Bones tackles the issue of race in America, something horror novels aren't traditionally known for. Thematically, the supernatural element has risen organically from the excluded and terrorized population of the housing project over years and decades.

Now, with the housing project closed and all but one of the apartment towers demolished, a billionaire has brought four seemingly unrelated people to Dreamland (the so-nicknamed last tower and center or decades of horror) for a two-week stay to attempt to delve into whether or not Something exists in Dreamland.

The team-investigates-haunted-house sub-genre of horror is a venerable one, with at least two towering (ahem) examples, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. Bailey's novel doesn't quite reach those heights. It is, nonetheless, a thoughtful and occasionally harrowing read, with more on its mind than simply scaring the reader, and with solidly and believably rendered protagonists. Recommended.

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