The Night House

Knopf. Oct. 2023. 256p. tr. from Norwegian by Neil Smith. ISBN 9780593537169. $28. HORROR
In mystery writer Nesbø’s (Killing Moon) first foray into horror, 14-year-old Richard Elauved, sent to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents’ deaths, feels trapped in sleepy, rural Ballantyne. He quickly earns a reputation as the angry city kid who lashes out at the slightest provocation. When a classmate goes missing, all eyes are on Richard, who was the last person to see him alive. What Richard can’t get anyone to believe is that Tom was sucked into the receiver while making a prank call in a telephone booth on the edge of the woods. After another classmate disappears, Richard discovers a house in the forest that holds a dark past. With help from his friend Karen and the local librarian, Richard must prove his innocence—though he may not be as reliable a narrator as he seems.
VERDICT Nesbø deftly guides readers on a journey much larger than many will expect from the slim volume. Reminiscent of Joe Meno’s The Boy Detective Fails, initial expectations of genre, setting, and mood are subverted as a simple horror novel unfolds into a story that encompasses grief, mid-life crises, and more. Give this one to fans of Grady Hendrix or adults nostalgic for the “Goosebumps” series.
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