The Agony House
by Cherie Priest
Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 out of 5 stars)
Reviewed by: Melody Smith
Denise Farber has moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. The small family left when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and have returned, hoping to turn an old large house into a Bed and Breakfast. The neighbors think of Denise’s family as gentrifiers, those of medium to high income that move into low-income neighborhoods hoping to attract new business, but Denise disagrees with this statement. Not only are they scraping by with takeout every night and a small loan that comes from the bank with each fix-up, but the house is falling apart at the seams; nothing works, the dirty wallpaper won’t come off, and there is a nest of wasps in the room where they keep their microwave. The unexplained footsteps and noises are a little more out of the ordinary and only adds to their woes, but the longtime rumor of a dead body in the walls holds the interest of many in St. Roch. It isn’t until Denise and her newfound friend Terry find an unpublished comic in the attic that she realizes something truly sinister is lurking within their house. The answers to the odd things happening to her and her family may lie in the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s.
The comic the main character reads throughout this story is illustrated in the book, for those who enjoy graphic novels just as much as they do regular novels. While you are reading about how Denise is faring in this new neighborhood in a familiar city in a creepy old house, you are also putting together the pieces of a mystery and following a female detective as she saves her boyfriend from a vampire. It isn’t your everyday ghost story that makes it hard to sleep at night and makes you sweat with each turn of the page, but it gives you just enough of a scare to keep you interested in how it will turn out. The characters, both alive and dead, are all really well developed and have their own perks, quirks, and goals.
I had no issues at all remaining interested in this story and the ending was satisfying. One can appreciate the nod to important topics like race and feminism without making it so much of a focus that it takes away from the main ghostly plot. I recommend The Agony House to readers of all ages and anyone who enjoys a good adrenaline rush without sweating from absolute terror, as well as anyone who can’t decide between pictures and words for their next read.