books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Your House is On Fire, Your Children all Gone by Stefan Kiesbye

The tiny village of Hermmersmoor has that timelessness that only the smallest ones do.  It’s full of secrets and superstitions, and the locals keep secrets both terrible and mysterious.  The grand manor sits on the edge of town, and the rest of the villagers share rumors about the family who lives there.  In this town, four friends come of age and discover some of life’s most horrific aspects.

There are plenty of reviews that compare Kiesbye’s novel to Stephen King (at his prime, I guess), and while there may be some elements here that are similar to King’s most chilling works, Kiesbye’s voice is far more literary than the comparison hints at.  In this chilling novel, Kiesbye crafts a story that sticks to readers’ ribs and chills them to their bones.  This is not a story that readers will be able to put down and forget about.  It demands to be paid attention to.

Loosely connected short stories told by different people in the village of Hemmersmoor make this a remarkable novel.  Each chapter has different narration and offers a different tale of reminiscence about the weird town the characters grew up in.  Each tale has an underlying tension throughout it, and there’s a feeling of malice on every page, though it’s hard to place at times.  The result is a suspenseful, gripping, wholly terrifying read.

What’s worth mentioning is Kiesbye’s ability to craft a story that is genuinely terrifying without resulting to gratuitous gore.  The stories are mostly bloodless but terrifying all the same, and sometimes even scarier because they’re so removed.  It’s a knockout of a novel, and should work for hardcore horror fans as well as new readers to the genre.  It’s very good.

Your House is On Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye. Penguin Books: 2012. Library copy.

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