If you thought this was a horror novel going forward, so be it, but don’t write an angry review about it. Admit your mistake and move on. That’s my advice to the Goodreads readers who are SO MAD that this was different than they imagined. And partly this is unfortunate because I think this is a very good novel and it’s beautifully written. The novel itself is broken into several long sections that circulate around a true crime writer who is taking on a murder case from a town with a very famous murder case and then this not famous one. The famous case is the one you’ve seen before if you saw the movie The River’s Edge, which has Keanu Reeves and Crispin Glover among others. That movie involves a teen boy who murders his girlfriend and shows his friends her dead body. The friends react in a stunned kind of way and either are too traumatized to tell authorities or are complicit in the cover up (or both) depending on how you want to read it. This new set of murders involves a diner turned newsstand turned porn store turned teenage hangout where a real estate and a potential client are murdered with a sword. The town has been happy to let the murders become lost to history. Enter Gage Chandler (whose name is probably a little too on the nose). Using his already established fame in the world of true crime, his new project involves him buying the property, which has been recently restored, living it, and inhabiting the space as a way to understand how everyone ended up there in that exact moment. The town is probably not too keen on his poking around, but that is barely discussed in this novel.
Another two sections of the book has Gage employing a second person narrator to talk to the subject of his first famous novel, an English teacher who was convicted of murdering two of her wayward students who broke into her house. She claimed self-defense, but since she was arrested attempting to dispose of their bodies, this was not accepted. Another is a section told to the mother of one of the dead boys. Other sections include a third-person narration of the events of “Devil House” and a mythic kind of retelling of knight’s tale, which is not easy to fully understand its point, but the context makes more sense in situ. The last section seemingly involves the narration of someone like John Darnielle, a former childhood friend of Gage Chandler, where we get to meet him outside of his own writing, which gives us more to work with.
Like I said, I get not liking the book because you thought this was going to be Head Full of Ghosts, but I thought this was a brilliantly written and beautifully rendered accounting of human witnessing.