*I received a free ARC of this book via Voracious Readers Only and with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Twelve strangers wake up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, and barely any recollection of who they are. They quickly learn that there is no way out, scarcely enough food and water to go around, and eerie music plays constantly in the background of every room. There is nothing to explain their mysterious incarceration except for a few scattered clues, a strange clock with twenty-four numbers and one single hour hand, and a leather-bound sheet of rules that makes their situation all the more fatal.
The House Rules:
Rule one: No escape. You can’t leave, plain and simple. Try to escape and you won’t like what you find on the other side.
Rule two: Make what you have last. Whatever food and water you currently find in the house is all that you will be provided with during your stay. No more will be given to you under any circumstance.
Rule three: When the music stops, someone must die. The music you can all hear in the background will cease between the hour of twenty-three and twenty-four; when this happens someone must die. Failure to comply with this rule will result in everyone’s death.
Rule four: Only one, and only when the music stops! One death, and only one death, must occur in the allotted time between the hour of twenty-three and twenty-four. Again, failure to comply with this rule will result in everyone’s death.
We hope you have a pleasant stay, and don’t forget: Redemption is the key to escape.
The blurb for this book hooked me in from the start, and having finished the book I think this is an absolutely brilliant concept for a story.
The execution was a little shaky to begin with, with the author introducing a large cast of characters quite quickly and with what felt like quite stilted dialogue and actions. Therefore it took me a little while to get a feel for them as individuals and at that point the action was already underway.
But what action it was! Once things got going with the plot, the author really hit his stride and the characterisations and interactions became smoother and more natural. There was still something… off… and I was delighted when it became clear that this was deliberate and formed part of the book’s creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere.
The slow, staggered pacing caused by the enforced 24 hour rule added to the stifling claustrophobia as well; keeping the reader on edge in the same way a good horror film does, whilst throwing in the odd jump-shock!
Hints and clues were dripfed into the narrative in just the right amounts and level of detail to allow you to guess along, without giving the lot away, and I was reminded of books and films like And Then There Were None, Shutter Island, Foreverland and Identity by how the characters were forced to doubt the evidence of their senses and eventually their sanity.
Finally, the ending was just as it had to be: not too much detail to ruin the mysterious atmosphere, but enough to provide satisfactory closure and bring us full circle.
This story has already been established as ‘lore’ in my mind! I kept returning to it days after putting it down to ponder both the logistics and the morality and I will definitely be checking out the Book Wielder series by the same author.
Strange images of her family flashed through her mind amongst violent red flashes, and were interrupted only by eerie still pictures of household interiors. Bricked up windows, sealed doors and overwhelming visions of endless darkness flowed into her turbulent dream. Along with them came pleasant yet creepy music, like the type that played in elevators and telephone on-hold tracks, and it droned through her skull relentlessly. As irritating as it was, for some strange reason she feared more than anything that it would end.
– Sean Davies, The House of Twelve
The House of Twelve is available on Amazon right now.