Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quiet Houses by Simon Kurt Unsworth

I read Quiet Houses, by Simon Kurt Unsworth, because of a recommendation I saw in the Kindle Horror Facebook group. I've always been a huge fan of the haunted house story, and this book was recommended highly by another author. I assumed Mr. Unsworth was a new indie author. I was totally wrong. (Not really an unusual occurrence) Mr. Unsworth has been writing for a while and has stories in several of the Best Horror of the Year volumes as well as The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror. You can find his blog here.

Quiet Houses is one of the best books I've read all year. I don't say that lightly, because let's face it, I read a lot of books this year. Some of them not even worth reviewing, but some of them quite good. I will say that this is the best "on a whim" purchase I made this year.

The book uses the "frame method" of story telling. That means that there is a beginning story that sets the premise of the book and then each of the other stories are told, and another story at the end wraps everything up tightly and ties everything together. Sometimes this method works well (think of the old movie, Dr. Terror's House of Horror. What? You've never seen it?! It's a classic, people! Chock full of old horror movie legends! *sighs* I digress...) and sometimes it doesn't work. In this book it works beautifully.

We start with the story of a research assistant, Nakata, sorting through answers to an ad he placed in the newspaper, trying to find haunted houses. He wades through them and finds a few to actually check out. Each of these houses is a seperate story in the book. Throughout the book we get more glimpses into the character and what drives Nakata himself. One of the stories in the book is his own pivotal experience with a haunting. There are eight stories in the book. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but I if I had to (you know, because someone was pointing a gun to my head, or something), I would pick number 5. It centers on a big abandoned hotel, The Ocean Grand.

And I know what you're thinking (no, not because I'm psychic), I can almost here you say it, But that's been done! It has, and it's been done so well that sometimes we begin to think that no one else can use that theme again. And that, my friends, is the beauty of this collection! Haunted houses, haunted hotels, haunted burial grounds have all been done. Yet, Mr. Unsworth manages to do them again and not bore his readers. Each tale is so quietly creepy, so dreadfully evocative, so atmospheric, that you get completely caught up in them and don't spend the whole time comparing them to other things you've read. That, in itself, is quite a feat. As is creeping me out so badly that I don't want to turn out the light. And that's what these tales did.

There's no gore. No shock for the sake of shock value. No mad slashers. No gimmicks. These tales are just pure horror. The good old fashioned kind of horror, the kind that relies on plot, atmosphere and good writing, to deliver the scare. I highly recommend this collection. I don't recommend that you read it at night, if alone in the house. Recommended for lovers of Poe, James Herbert or Barbara Eskine. (If you don't know any of those authors- look them up- they're fabulous!) Or for anyone who just likes their fear to creep up on them, slowly, from behind.

You can find the book here on

Remember the contest! You can still enter to win by leaving me a comment telling me your favorite book and the reason it's your favorite. Contest runs until December 23rd. Now go. Read something!



Nora Peevy said...

Hello, my Creepfest winner! How are you today?

My contest to win a signed copy of the UK mag, Twisted Tongue, with my short story, A Taste of Murder, is still running. Time to entre! I hope your prize gets to you safely and not all crumpled by a stupid postman. :)

Happy Creepfest and holidays!

I have one question. My one pet peeve about indie publishing is sometimes that the grammar quality sucks monkey butt. Does this book suck grammar monkey butt? LOL It sounds good.


Spot said...

Nora~ Thanks for stopping by! Actually, the grammar and editing are really good in this book. Must have had a professional editor. Everything about this book was good!


Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Simon, good on yeh! Glad to see your writing getting more love!

Best wishes, Ash

James Everington said...

Good review - I'm a big fan of the Unsworth stories I've read in anthologies so definitely will be getting one of his solo collections at some point.

Spot said...

Ash- I definitely will spread the word about Simon's stories. I see he has one in "The Year's Best" by Ellen Datlow, big success!

James- thanks for stopping by my blog. I need to pick up his other collection!


Riju said...

Nice and heart-warming review. I also think that this book should be treated as one of the best things that happened in horror-genre in 2011. I hope SKU continues the good work in 2012 and onwards as well.