The Night House

Books on Tape. Oct. 2023. 6:25 hrs. ISBN 9780593788585. $95. HORROR
Nesbø (Killing Moon), who’s known mostly for mysteries, delves into horror, with mixed results. Fourteen-year-old Richard Elauved is not making any friends in Ballantyne, where he’s been sent to live with his aunt and uncle. He bullies a classmate into making a prank call to someone named Imu Jonasson, and that classmate is eaten by the phone. The police don’t believe Richard’s wild stories, and Imu seems to be mentally torturing Richard. This YA-level horror experience resolves, then shifts to an older Richard, now a successful author, attending a school reunion that devolves into a different nightmare. Richard is the ultimate unreliable narrator; his identity and surrounding reality are in constant flux, and the people around him can be killed or transformed in fantastical ways. In the audiobook, Michael Crouch’s narration as teen and adult Richard establishes Richard as the only constant in this ever-shifting narrative. Though some listeners will be satisfied by individual scenes that make this book as fun as any carnival ride, Nesbø’s most devoted fans will likely be frustrated by the bait-and-switch tactics.
VERDICT Nesbø’s first foray into horror lacks a tightly focused plot but makes up for it with imaginative scenes that fascinate even when separated from the whole.
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