By LINDY RYAN
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Rating: 5/5 Bites
Mistress of suspense, T. Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead, The Hollow Places), delivers yet another haunting Southern gothic in A House With Good Bones [Tor Nightfire, March 28, 2023], an exploration of the twisted dark roots—literally and figuratively—that curl beneath the rose-trimmed picket fence of a picture-perfect family.
When Sam(antha) Montgomery’s brother Brad tells her “Mom seems off,” Sam quickly returns to the quiet North Carolina town, to the house she once grew up in under the dominion of her long-dead grandmother Mae, to investigate. Indeed, things do seem off once Sam arrives at her former childhood home, but it’s not just her mother. The house itself feels wrong: the brightly painted walls have been beige-washed (Grandma Mae’s preference), her mom’s kitschy art has been replaced by odd Confederate paintings (Grandma Mae’s preference), and Grandma Mae’s rosebushes are alive and thriving though Sam’s mother isn’t a gardener. Her mother is behaving oddly too; she’s jumpy, nervous, and her quirky habits have expanded into full-blown paranoia. Sam, a scientist, isn’t able to logic her way through this series of odd behaviors that all seem to lead back to one impossible conclusion: Grandma Mae isn’t really gone. Okay, of course she is. So maybe Mom is just experiencing some sort of delayed grieving or something? This theory might work, but it doesn’t explain Sam’s night terror and sleep paralysis. Or the ladybug swarms. Or what she sees laying under the rosebush in her high school graduation photo that hangs in the hallway. Or what she finds buried in the backyard. Featuring a spunky, relatable protagonist, a creeping evil, and a fresh look at the garden witch and unexpected horrors—and just how delightful vultures can be—A House With Good Bones is as horrifying as it is lovely. Another win for Kingfisher.