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The House of Ashes

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For fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a chilling story of a Northern Irish murder sixty years buried Sara Keane's husband, Damien, has uprooted them from England and moved them to his native Northern Ireland for a "fresh start" in the wake of her nervous breakdown. Sara, who knows no one in Northern Ireland, is jobless, carless, friendless—all but a prisoner in her ow For fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a chilling story of a Northern Irish murder sixty years buried Sara Keane's husband, Damien, has uprooted them from England and moved them to his native Northern Ireland for a "fresh start" in the wake of her nervous breakdown. Sara, who knows no one in Northern Ireland, is jobless, carless, friendless—all but a prisoner in her own house. When a blood-soaked old woman beats on the door, insisting the house is hers before being bundled back to her care facility, Sara begins to understand the house has a terrible history her husband never intended for her to discover. Through the counterpoint voices of two women—one modern Englishwoman, one Northern Irish farmgirl speaking from half a century earlier—Stuart Neville offers a chilling and gorgeous portrait of violence and resilience in this truly haunting narrative.


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For fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a chilling story of a Northern Irish murder sixty years buried Sara Keane's husband, Damien, has uprooted them from England and moved them to his native Northern Ireland for a "fresh start" in the wake of her nervous breakdown. Sara, who knows no one in Northern Ireland, is jobless, carless, friendless—all but a prisoner in her ow For fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a chilling story of a Northern Irish murder sixty years buried Sara Keane's husband, Damien, has uprooted them from England and moved them to his native Northern Ireland for a "fresh start" in the wake of her nervous breakdown. Sara, who knows no one in Northern Ireland, is jobless, carless, friendless—all but a prisoner in her own house. When a blood-soaked old woman beats on the door, insisting the house is hers before being bundled back to her care facility, Sara begins to understand the house has a terrible history her husband never intended for her to discover. Through the counterpoint voices of two women—one modern Englishwoman, one Northern Irish farmgirl speaking from half a century earlier—Stuart Neville offers a chilling and gorgeous portrait of violence and resilience in this truly haunting narrative.

30 review for The House of Ashes

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    This is one of the darkest, saddest, most impactful novels I’ve recently read! Six decades long violent abuse remains unresolved at a haunted place! In the present time when a couple with dysfunctional relationship patterns moves to same house, the ashes and ghosts of past start surrounding them! This book truly depressed me! When you read the parts about abuse the characters suffered from, I truly felt their pain and I got suffocated. I barely finished some chapters. Honestly I love thrillers This is one of the darkest, saddest, most impactful novels I’ve recently read! Six decades long violent abuse remains unresolved at a haunted place! In the present time when a couple with dysfunctional relationship patterns moves to same house, the ashes and ghosts of past start surrounding them! This book truly depressed me! When you read the parts about abuse the characters suffered from, I truly felt their pain and I got suffocated. I barely finished some chapters. Honestly I love thrillers and big fan of horror movies and books but when I saw, get witnessed or watched something about how a person intentionally hurts another human being, I get choked. When things are defined closer to true life stories and fictional world an author created, it’s inevitable to feel more agitated! This is meaner, more painful and extremely disturbing! Two women’s stories are intercepted at the same house: the present time: Sara who recently committed suicide, psychologically shaken, barely gathering herself together, moves to the house along with her abusive, mean husband Damien. They eventually move this place located in Northern Ireland for clean start. And the house belongs to Damien’s ancestors. And Mary who is the stranger knocks her door, telling the dark truth the house carries. Mary was just a child three decades ago when she witnessed the tragic events took place at the haunted place. Sara and Mary are both dominated, gaslighted and tormented by men for years. I have a little hard time to understand Sara’s inner motivations about choosing her husband to marry and her reluctance to get out of the relationship. But when I read Mary’s perspective, I easily empathize with her because she didn’t have a way to get out at most of the time. As we read both POVs, big secrets reveal about Damien’s family. Most of them prove how far they go to hold their family values together in very disturbing and sick way! Overall: this is dark and intense story about abuse, friendship, self resilience, family secrets, women empowerment. It affected me a lot and it was one of the most compelling reads of mine. I have to warn you this is not everyone’s cup of tea! Special thanks to NetGalley and Soho Press for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This review was first posted on Mystery and Suspense. Check it out for features, interviews, and reviews. https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/th... When university student Sara meets architect Damien Keane in England, Sara is swept off her feet by Damien's charm, love and attention. After Sara graduates and takes a job as a child protection officer, the couple marries, and things change. Damien becomes jealous, controlling, and aggressive, and manipulates Sara into distancing herself from her famil This review was first posted on Mystery and Suspense. Check it out for features, interviews, and reviews. https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/th... When university student Sara meets architect Damien Keane in England, Sara is swept off her feet by Damien's charm, love and attention. After Sara graduates and takes a job as a child protection officer, the couple marries, and things change. Damien becomes jealous, controlling, and aggressive, and manipulates Sara into distancing herself from her family and friends. Sara's subsequent breakdown gives Damien an excuse to move the couple to his hometown in Northern Ireland, where Damen's ex-convict father Francie has bought - and is upgrading and expanding - an isolated farmhouse for his son and daughter-in-law. The local residents fear Francie, who's mean, belligerent and has a reputation for violence. Sara is lonely in Northern Ireland, with no job, no car, and no friends. It's into this atmosphere that a disheveled old woman named Mary wanders early one morning, and knocks on the Keanes' farmhouse door. Mary insists it's her house and asks where the children are. It turns out Mary is the home's former owner, and she now resides in a care home. Damien quickly gathers Mary up and takes her back to the care home, brushing off Sara's questions about the incident. Sara's curiosity leads her to nose around town, where she learns a mass murder occurred in the farmhouse sixty years ago, and Mary was the only survivor. Damien gets angry when Sara confronts him about this, saying the murders are ancient history and Sara should be more appreciative of Francie's generosity. Sara pays surreptitious visits to Mary in the care home, and Mary tells her that a recent fire, deliberately started by someone, forced her to sell the farmhouse. Mary also tells Sara there are children in the dwelling, hiding in the walls, corners, and floors. It's clear terrible things happened in the house, and we learn exactly what as the story unfolds. Mary's speech is sprinkled with Irish vernacular, but it's easy enough to understand what she means. The novel alternates back and forth between the past, when Mary was a child in the farmhouse, and the present, when Sara and Damien reside there. In Mary's most vivid memories of the past, she's about ten years old, and she and two Mummies live in the cold damp basement of the farmhouse. Their plight is dire and may have been shared by other people, including children, who came and went. Mary's recollections are sketchy, though, so parts of her story are uncertain. In the present, Sara is lonely, dislikes living in a murder house, and is growing terrified of Damien's almost pathological jealousy. Sara regrets not heeding her best friend's warnings about Damien, but doesn't know how to extricate herself now. As Sara's situation gets more and more harrowing she starts to see the ghost of a woman as well as spectres of children, who seem to be trying to tell her something. All this leads to a dramatic double climax that seethes with agony and retribution. This is an excellent thriller that's gruesome and hard to stomach, but completely believable. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Dark and intense. A mystery set 60 years apart and centering around a house called The House of Ashes. This book pulled one of my triggers, the abuse and enforced servitude of women at the hands of what my granddaughter Rue, she's four, would call badies. Despicable men with little or no conscience. I think had I been reading and not listening I would have put the book aside. Not because it isn't good, it is, but because of the subject. The narrator though, Caroline Lennon hooked me completely an Dark and intense. A mystery set 60 years apart and centering around a house called The House of Ashes. This book pulled one of my triggers, the abuse and enforced servitude of women at the hands of what my granddaughter Rue, she's four, would call badies. Despicable men with little or no conscience. I think had I been reading and not listening I would have put the book aside. Not because it isn't good, it is, but because of the subject. The narrator though, Caroline Lennon hooked me completely and I wanted to find out the truth of what happened in this house as well as the fate of the current occupant. Can houses where horrific events occured maintain the ghostly remnants of the past? I think so, and this story, this house, is a case in point. I felt for the characters in this book, their bravery in the face of adversity, their will to live and the hope they maintain against all odds. I loved young Mary and the present Mary, now in her seventies, as well. Plus, I needed to know who these children were, what was their purpose. All was answered in this difficult but well drawn read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 the darkness is real stars This one is dark, oh so dark! Set in Northern Ireland, if there is a genre for Irish noir, I would place this book there. Featuring dual storylines, ghosts, and a mystery, this one was a compelling read. The modern-day storyline features Sara and Damien, recently moved to Damien’s homeland of Northern Ireland for a fresh start and clean slate after her mental health issues. We get glimpses into Sara’s past when she was a happier woman with friends from college and a jo 4 the darkness is real stars This one is dark, oh so dark! Set in Northern Ireland, if there is a genre for Irish noir, I would place this book there. Featuring dual storylines, ghosts, and a mystery, this one was a compelling read. The modern-day storyline features Sara and Damien, recently moved to Damien’s homeland of Northern Ireland for a fresh start and clean slate after her mental health issues. We get glimpses into Sara’s past when she was a happier woman with friends from college and a job. This was before Damien came into her life and took those things slowly away. The storyline from the past features Mary and several other women who used to live in the house that Sara and Damien are remodeling. Mary’s early life was a violent and terrible one and these passages were extremely difficult to read. These two storylines show that many women have a rough road in life and there are men who are dominating and violent. While this one was very dark, it was compelling, and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen. The ending definitely leaves some things unresolved, and this reader hopes for the best for all involved, especially Sara and Mary! They deserve some happiness and peace. Thank you to Soho Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    This book made me so sad. It’s definitely not a feel good book, though when certain characters start making correct decisions in life, you’ll feel a bit uplifted. Still…sad, though. There are two timelines here and both work. Normally, I tend to prefer one timeline but, very quickly, the author had me deeply entrenched in both our main characters’ lives. I’ll very happily read the author in the future! *ARC via Net Galley

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    I adored this. Hugely compelling and very emotional this is a dual timeline novel with one house at the centre of it. A tense and relevant psychological drama, with multiple perspectives and a horrifyingly authentic and complex tale at the heart of it. Beautifully done. One to watch in 2022.

  7. 4 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    A haunting look at two women's lives trapped at the hands of men and the one house that connects them both. Told in a dual timeline and narrative, we get to know Sara, a modern Englishwoman whose husband has uprooted them to move into his childhood home in Northern Ireland. Sara is essentially trapped in this house, with no job, no car and no purpose until an elderly woman shows up one night covered in blood claiming she used to live in the house. This sets off a truly heartbreaking and chilling A haunting look at two women's lives trapped at the hands of men and the one house that connects them both. Told in a dual timeline and narrative, we get to know Sara, a modern Englishwoman whose husband has uprooted them to move into his childhood home in Northern Ireland. Sara is essentially trapped in this house, with no job, no car and no purpose until an elderly woman shows up one night covered in blood claiming she used to live in the house. This sets off a truly heartbreaking and chilling story about women trapped in a house, think "Room" and the family of men who hold them captive. In the present Sara's stuck in a different kind of way by her abusive and controlling husband. I wasn't sure what to expect by this book but I couldn't put it down and the sad thing is that so many women still face problems like this (although maybe not quite to the same extent). Sara's mental health was a weapon her husband used against her rather than something he helped her manage. Highly recommended for fans of dark, captivity mysteries like Room or Local woman missing. Excellent on audio as well.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Helen Fields

    This is a beautifully written crime novel with a twist. There are supernatural elements but that shouldn't put off die hard crime fans. There's such a strong sense of place that it's easy to immerse yourself in the tale. Neville is simply brilliant at taking you into his stories and making you feel like you're literally looking over the protagonist's shoulder. This is heart-breaking, pulse-quickening read and I finished it in two sittings. Highly recommended. This is a beautifully written crime novel with a twist. There are supernatural elements but that shouldn't put off die hard crime fans. There's such a strong sense of place that it's easy to immerse yourself in the tale. Neville is simply brilliant at taking you into his stories and making you feel like you're literally looking over the protagonist's shoulder. This is heart-breaking, pulse-quickening read and I finished it in two sittings. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    This is one of those dark fiction books that, as you’re reading, you know for a fact could have really happened, and maybe similar to what happened to any of those people who have disappeared and never been found again. A young bride with an overprotective and abusive husband moves into a beautiful old home with a storied past. Sara begins to dig deeper, thanks to the outside help of their electrician, and the facts are horrible. There has been murder, suicide, and possibly arson at this home. Bu This is one of those dark fiction books that, as you’re reading, you know for a fact could have really happened, and maybe similar to what happened to any of those people who have disappeared and never been found again. A young bride with an overprotective and abusive husband moves into a beautiful old home with a storied past. Sara begins to dig deeper, thanks to the outside help of their electrician, and the facts are horrible. There has been murder, suicide, and possibly arson at this home. But none of those events explain the glimpses and dreams she’s having of various young children who seem to share the home with her. Constantly being badgered by her husband, Damien, as unstable, Sara begins secretly visiting Mary, the elderly woman who once owned the home before a terrible fire forced her into convalescent living. Mary is an extremely interesting and complex character, one that is difficult to fathom, but we know from past crimes in history, one that is sadly very much possible. From Mary, we learn about the family that once owned and worked the farm. I could go on and on about these people, but I would be traipsing on the fine line of a spoiler alert. There’s so much sad and horrible history within the walls of that old home. The life these people lived, either willingly or unwillingly, is the most descriptive, believable, and jaw-dropping part of the book. It’s like reading a true crime, knowing it ends horribly but being unable to Put That Book Down. Yes, sadly, we as humans devour this kind of story, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. I will definitely be reading more from Stuart Neville. Sincere thanks to Soho Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date was September 7, 2021.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Thank you Lord I'm finished with this sadistic piece of you know what. Avoid this. I started because I like lit about the Irish, but if this highlights the behavior in N. Ireland, I will be more selective in the future. I've come to believe that England and N. Ireland are totally evil. The English monarchy are just greedy/do-nothings who are worthless leeches. Long live Ireland! Thank you Lord I'm finished with this sadistic piece of you know what. Avoid this. I started because I like lit about the Irish, but if this highlights the behavior in N. Ireland, I will be more selective in the future. I've come to believe that England and N. Ireland are totally evil. The English monarchy are just greedy/do-nothings who are worthless leeches. Long live Ireland!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Yeah uhhhh not really a fan of books written by men that are literally just about abusing women for 60 years and more. Was hoping for more ghosts, too, so all in all just a disappointing read. Kind of regret sticking it out til the end, as it was tremendously unsatisfying and really just read like a man's fascination in how many ways a certain kind of man can abuse women and get away with it. 0 stars. Yeah uhhhh not really a fan of books written by men that are literally just about abusing women for 60 years and more. Was hoping for more ghosts, too, so all in all just a disappointing read. Kind of regret sticking it out til the end, as it was tremendously unsatisfying and really just read like a man's fascination in how many ways a certain kind of man can abuse women and get away with it. 0 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    KC

    Stuart Neville's latest standalone novel is an Irish mystery with a duel timeline. A heinous crime some 60 years unsolved; rumors fly, locals talk without knowing many details. Present day, a young woman and her abusive husband move into the home in which that crime took place. Will she be able to solve the riddle and lay to rest those souls who still haunt so many? For those who enjoy Tana French. Stuart Neville's latest standalone novel is an Irish mystery with a duel timeline. A heinous crime some 60 years unsolved; rumors fly, locals talk without knowing many details. Present day, a young woman and her abusive husband move into the home in which that crime took place. Will she be able to solve the riddle and lay to rest those souls who still haunt so many? For those who enjoy Tana French.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    Irish author Stuart Neville has been called the “king of Belfast noir.” That said, I am pleased to report that his latest novel, THE HOUSE OF ASHES, is a completely different type of story. Featuring supernatural and even gothic elements in a book fueled by female resilience, this is a huge departure for Neville, a risk that pays off quite handsomely. It begins with a fire. An elderly woman wakes up in the middle of the night and steps into the hallway outside her bedroom. She witnesses a conflag Irish author Stuart Neville has been called the “king of Belfast noir.” That said, I am pleased to report that his latest novel, THE HOUSE OF ASHES, is a completely different type of story. Featuring supernatural and even gothic elements in a book fueled by female resilience, this is a huge departure for Neville, a risk that pays off quite handsomely. It begins with a fire. An elderly woman wakes up in the middle of the night and steps into the hallway outside her bedroom. She witnesses a conflagration of bright flames and is overpowered by the smell of burning wood. Even with her own life in danger, her singular concern is for her children, whom only she can see. There are the howls of the many cats from her home that are perishing in the flames, and it all ends with her prying open her bedroom window and tumbling two stories to the ground. The last thing she claims to see is a young girl dressed in white who is seemingly untouched by the flames that surround her. These events all took place in the recent past, and the house has been rebuilt and purchased by new owners. Sara Keane, originally from England, has been brought there by her overly possessive husband, Damien. Not long after they have moved in, the couple is accosted at their doorstep by a crazed old woman who claims that the house belongs to her. Her name is Mary, and they send her back to the retirement home where she now resides. The book then jumps back and forth between a small group of narrators and within a timeline that spans the present day and all the way back almost half a century. One day, a Mr. Buchanan meets Sara and tells her the dark history of her house, which he refers to as the old Jackson place. He informs her that murders were committed on the farm nearly 60 years earlier, and the village still lives under the ominous shadow of those horrific events. The chapters that take us back in time are from the point of view of three young women, all of whom are prisoners of the trio of evil men who have them trapped within the “House of Ashes,” where Sara and Damien now reside. These narrators are Mary --- the younger version of our elderly lady from the prologue --- Esther and Joy. Their story is a harsh one, and the physical and mental abuse they suffer at the hands of these men who call themselves “their family” is unconscionable. In the present day, Sara has begun seeing specters of the past --- young girls around the banks of the marshy lake on their property. When she chases after them, they submerge into the water, leaving behind what appears to be red ribbons floating on the top skin of the murky water. Sara also is seeking to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing husband, who went so far as to imitate her on a WhatsApp chat with her best friend, Amanda, to learn more about her old boyfriends. Sara ends up befriending Rossi, an electrician who is doing work on their rebuilt home. He witnesses the mental abuse to which she is subjected and gives her his business card if she should ever require help. Sara becomes so interested in the property that she begins doing heavy research into its history and starts visiting Mary at the retirement home for firsthand information. Mary tells Sara, “The house doesn’t matter…. It never mattered. It’s the land. Those children, they’re like the trees all around and the grass in the fields. Those men planted the children there, like seeds. They’re in the ground and they’ll always be there. They’ve always been there. Like me. Always.” This is really creepy stuff but also very telling. THE HOUSE OF ASHES definitely goes there and relies heavily on Stuart Neville’s background as a writer of crime fiction to tell a story that is as moving and inspiring as it is terrifying. Sara and Mary are forever connected by that property and the bad men who have them in their clutches. Their resilience is remarkable and something to truly admire. Reviewed by Ray Palen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This is one of the saddest stories ever!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sue Kelso

    I did not expect to like this book. I usually don't go for any woo woo factor in books. But, once I started reading it, I just kept going and going. Sara and Damien move to Northern Ireland to start over. Sara has had some psychological issues and Damien thinks this will be good for her. One day an old women,Mary, who is hysterical shows up on her door step to ask about the children. Ignoring Damien's disapproval, Sara decides to research the house they are living in, the fire that burned it down I did not expect to like this book. I usually don't go for any woo woo factor in books. But, once I started reading it, I just kept going and going. Sara and Damien move to Northern Ireland to start over. Sara has had some psychological issues and Damien thinks this will be good for her. One day an old women,Mary, who is hysterical shows up on her door step to ask about the children. Ignoring Damien's disapproval, Sara decides to research the house they are living in, the fire that burned it down and the children that Mary mentions. This leads to a friendship with the electrician who is working in their house and he decides to help her with the house mystery and the rapidly disenigrating relationship with Damien. At one point the book takes a surprising turn into violence but the relationship with Damien is the classic story of emotional abuse. A good read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville. Thanks to @sohopress for the gifted Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When Sara moves to the countryside with her husband, she has no idea about the home’s history. When an old woman comes pounding at her door, she can’t ignore the past. This was one of those stories that has a bit of real life spookiness and paranormal spookiness. I love when the two overlap. There were multiple timelines and POV’s but it was not confusing at all. I loved how everything revealed itself a little The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville. Thanks to @sohopress for the gifted Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When Sara moves to the countryside with her husband, she has no idea about the home’s history. When an old woman comes pounding at her door, she can’t ignore the past. This was one of those stories that has a bit of real life spookiness and paranormal spookiness. I love when the two overlap. There were multiple timelines and POV’s but it was not confusing at all. I loved how everything revealed itself a little bit at a time from the past, and it affected the current time as well. “Was the wickedness in the soil? Maybe it had always been there, even before the house. Maybe the wicked has seeped up through the soil, like the water did through the floorboards, and maybe it spread its wickedness to them men. Maybe it’s always been there. Maybe it’s still there now.” The House of Ashes comes out 9/7.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Four and a half stars. Very haunting and sad story. Sara moves into a house in Northern Ireland with her controlling husband Damien and the house has a history. 60 years ago 5 people were found murdered in it. The story goes back and forth from past to present and it’s the story of the past that is heart wrenching. Very good ending but left some things open.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Monika

    The House of Ashes is a mysterious story of abuse, isolation and emotional ghosts. The storyline was dark and disturbing than I thought it would be but the uncomplicated writing made it easy to read through the chapters. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these women. Although fiction, the stuff they went through was significantly painful to read. The haunting ghostly parts with underlying meaning were brilliantly written. This sure is one of a kind story, that crime and dark thriller lovers wil The House of Ashes is a mysterious story of abuse, isolation and emotional ghosts. The storyline was dark and disturbing than I thought it would be but the uncomplicated writing made it easy to read through the chapters. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these women. Although fiction, the stuff they went through was significantly painful to read. The haunting ghostly parts with underlying meaning were brilliantly written. This sure is one of a kind story, that crime and dark thriller lovers will enjoy. Thank you Soho Crime via Netgalley for the arc.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    Irish author Stuart Neville has been called the King of Belfast Noir. Keeping that in mind, I am pleased to say that this stand-alone novel THE HOUSE OF ASHES is a completely different type of story. With supernatural and even gothic elements in a novel fueled by female resilience, this is a huge departure from his typical output and that risk ends up being a big hit for Neville. It begins with a fire. An elderly woman wakes up in the middle of the night and steps into the hallway outside her bed Irish author Stuart Neville has been called the King of Belfast Noir. Keeping that in mind, I am pleased to say that this stand-alone novel THE HOUSE OF ASHES is a completely different type of story. With supernatural and even gothic elements in a novel fueled by female resilience, this is a huge departure from his typical output and that risk ends up being a big hit for Neville. It begins with a fire. An elderly woman wakes up in the middle of the night and steps into the hallway outside her bedroom. She witnesses a conflagration of bright flames and the is overpowered by the smell of burning wood. Even with her own life at risk, her only concern is for her children. Children that only she can see. There are the howls of the many cats from her home that are perishing in the flames and the event ends with the woman prying open her bedroom window and tumbling out of it two stories to the ground with her fall only broken by the bushes below. The last thing she claims to see is a young girl dressed in white who is seemingly untouched by the flames that surround her. These events all took place in the recent past and the house has been rebuilt and purchased by new owners. Sara Keane, originally from England, has been brought there by her overly possessive husband, Damien. Not long after they have moved in, Sara and Damien are accosted at their doorstep by a crazed old woman claiming that the house belongs to her. They learn that the woman’s name is Mary and they have her returned to the retirement home where she now resides. The action of THE HOUSE OF ASHES then jumps back and forth between a small group of narrators and within a timeline that spans the present day and all the way back almost half a century. While shopping in the village one day, a Mr. Buchanan meets Sara and tells her the dark history of the house she lives in which he referred to as the old Jackson place. He informs her that there were killings that took place on the farm there and, even though they took place nearly fifty years earlier, the village still lives under the ominous shadow of those evil events. The chapters that take us back in time are from the point of view of three young women who are all prisoners of the trio of evil men that have them trapped within the ‘House of Ashes’, the same place that burned down and which Sara and Damien now reside in. These narrators are Mary --- the younger version of our elderly woman from the prologue, Esther, and Joy. Their story is a harsh one and the physical and mental abuse they suffer at the hands of these men who call themselves ‘their family’ is unconscionable. Back in the present day, Sara has begun seeing specters of the past --- young girls around the banks of the marshy lake on their property. When she chases after them, they submerge into the water leaving behind what appears to be red ribbons floating on the top skin of the murky water. Sara also is seeking to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing husband who went so far as to imitate her on a WhatsApp chat with her best friend Amanda to learn more about Sara’s old boyfriends. Sara ends up befriending a man named Rossi, an electrician doing work on their rebuilt home, and he witnesses the mental abuse she is subjected to and gives her his business card in the event she should ever require help. Sara becomes so interested in the property that she begins doing heavy research into the history of it and starts visiting Mary at the retirement home for firsthand information. Mary tells Sara: ‘The house doesn’t matter. It never mattered. It’s the land. Those children, they’re like the trees all around and the grass in the fields. Those men planted the children there, like seeds. They’re in the ground and they’ll always be there. They’ve always been there. Like me. Always.’ Real creepy stuff --- but also very telling. Stuart Neville’s THE HOUSE OF ASHES definitely goes there and relies heavily on his background as a writer of crime fiction to use the terrible crimes perpetrated on women and young children to tell a story that is as moving and inspiring as it is terrifying. Sara and Mary are forever connected by that property and the bad men they have the misfortune of being stuck there with. The story of their resilience is remarkable and something to truly admire. Reviewed by Ray Palen for Book Reporter

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bad Girl Bex

    Not bad, but not the amazing book a lot of other reviewers made it out to be. If I'm being generous, it's maybe a 3.5 star read, but I just wasn't particularly blown away by it. I could see exactly where things were going to go, pretty much from about a quarter of the way into it; I just didn't know the precise route that the characters would take to their ultimate demise. I enjoyed reading the parts from Mary's POV, spoken in a truly realistic Northern Irish brogue that came across really well i Not bad, but not the amazing book a lot of other reviewers made it out to be. If I'm being generous, it's maybe a 3.5 star read, but I just wasn't particularly blown away by it. I could see exactly where things were going to go, pretty much from about a quarter of the way into it; I just didn't know the precise route that the characters would take to their ultimate demise. I enjoyed reading the parts from Mary's POV, spoken in a truly realistic Northern Irish brogue that came across really well in both the dialogue and her inner monologues. (Anyone whose known a fierce brave Irish mammy, will see a wee bit of them in a few of the characters in this story!) A lot of the story that was initially foreshadowed, before giving the impression of there being some kind of ultimate resolution, didn't see any real conclusion; not that it's bad to not wind everything up in a tidy little bow, I'm just not sure if perhaps I'd have preferred a little more meat on the bones of the denouement. There were a few characters whose fate I'd like to have known, at least. All in all it was fairly entertaining, if a little predictable. I don't know if it's just because I've read so many thrillers and horror stories, or because ultimately there are really only 7 possible plots out there in the literary world, but the ending felt as though it was telegraphed to me, fairly early on. Still, it was nice to read something set in the North of Ireland for a change (also, bonus points for mentioning the 'auld boat across the sea to the Isle of Man', lol). I don't think I've read much set up that way before, but I'd like to read some more from that part of the world. (I absolutely loved the TV series 'The Fall' and I do like a man who sounds like he comes from Belfast, or the County Down coastline!) It's definitely worth reading if you like your thrillers blended with a wee bit of an old ghost story, for good measure. I might check out some more stuff by Stuart Neville too, once I'm done with 'Nonfiction November' but for now I'm after finding myself something a little less fanciful to be getting on with.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Harmony Kent

    Many thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier books for a free advanced review copy of this book. A perfect portrayal of a controlling, abusive husband and a psychologically damaged wife. "Glass breaks downstairs and she freezes in her bed, the blankets tight around her." From this opening line, the reader is taken on a dark journey in both the past and the present. I enjoyed this crime thriller immensely, and for me, the element of the unsettled ghosts added to the fun of the read. While it's a dark tale, Many thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier books for a free advanced review copy of this book. A perfect portrayal of a controlling, abusive husband and a psychologically damaged wife. "Glass breaks downstairs and she freezes in her bed, the blankets tight around her." From this opening line, the reader is taken on a dark journey in both the past and the present. I enjoyed this crime thriller immensely, and for me, the element of the unsettled ghosts added to the fun of the read. While it's a dark tale, much of the heavy stuff happens off page, so the reader knows what's going on but doesn't have to suffer through it with the characters. The narrative is through the lens of different characters but primarily from present day Sara and the young (decades ago) Mary. I really felt for the characters in this book and found the situations all too believable. Here are some lines that stood out for me: "Not real sleep, not the warm dark that brings light, but the dim hinterland where bitter memories surfaced to torment her." And ... "Then she imagined having to explain it to her husband, and the idea drained away like the drink she had just poured out." And ... "... an ache of sadness passing between them." The ending felt a little too open-ended for my liking, but otherwise this was a gripping and satisfying read, and I felt that certain characters got what was coming to them. I give The House of Ashes a solid five stars. *** NOTE ON RATINGS: I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to, I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me. 5 STARS: IT WAS AMAZING! I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! — Highly Recommended. 4 STARS: I WOULD PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER — Go read this book. 3 STARS: IT WAS GOOD! — An okay read. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. 2 STARS: I MAY HAVE LIKED A FEW THINGS —Lacking in some areas: writing, characterisation, and/or problematic plot lines. 1 STAR: NOT MY CUP OF TEA —Lots of issues with this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    This was a competently-written, in-depth look at women who either make poor choices for themselves or have poor choices made for them, described in great detail by a man trying to see through a woman's eyes. I think early November is just not the time to read about tortured, abused women and children, and I've just had enough of reading about real-life abuse and torture to care much about these characters. I'd loved The Ghosts of Belfast years ago, but this just amplified the picture I have of m This was a competently-written, in-depth look at women who either make poor choices for themselves or have poor choices made for them, described in great detail by a man trying to see through a woman's eyes. I think early November is just not the time to read about tortured, abused women and children, and I've just had enough of reading about real-life abuse and torture to care much about these characters. I'd loved The Ghosts of Belfast years ago, but this just amplified the picture I have of misogenistic, toxic Irish men, and Irish women who aren't brainless doormats, based solely on my reading over the last few years. Are there any kind, open-minded Irish men? Do Irish women not stand up for themselves? If there are, why aren't I reading about them? 2 1/2 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This is a creepy, yet very compelling novel about two women set in two different time periods in Northern Ireland. Even though the two women, Sara and Mary, don't seem to be very similar, they both live in households where controlling and abusive men run their lives. Mary is born in the House of Ashes and lives in the basement with her two mommies. The two mommies and Mary work tirelessly to keep house and feed the three men living upstairs. Sixty years later, Sara's husband buys the recently bu This is a creepy, yet very compelling novel about two women set in two different time periods in Northern Ireland. Even though the two women, Sara and Mary, don't seem to be very similar, they both live in households where controlling and abusive men run their lives. Mary is born in the House of Ashes and lives in the basement with her two mommies. The two mommies and Mary work tirelessly to keep house and feed the three men living upstairs. Sixty years later, Sara's husband buys the recently burned-down House of Ashes for him and Sara to make a "fresh start." After Mary shows up at Sara's house claiming to be the rightful owner, Sara begins to understand that her new home has a terrible history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Quite a dark, atmospheric novel about violence and hope. It reminded me a bit of ROOM where woman is locked away and abused by a violent, controlling man and a mother is trying to protect her child. This book does contain a second timeline, approximately 60 years later, that demonstrates some things in our world never change. Thanks to NetGalley and SoHo Books for the ARC to read and review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris Passas (TapTheLine)

    Stuart Neville is one of the rare examples of authors who know how how to expertly weave dark, distressing stories featuring broken protagonists and the emotional effect of his novels is often overwhelming especially to those readers who are looking for an easy-to-read mystery/thriller. As he has already proved in the excellent The Traveller and Other Stories, the Irish crime writer is a master of the disturbing and the macabre and his work so far is characterized by his almost obsessive engagem Stuart Neville is one of the rare examples of authors who know how how to expertly weave dark, distressing stories featuring broken protagonists and the emotional effect of his novels is often overwhelming especially to those readers who are looking for an easy-to-read mystery/thriller. As he has already proved in the excellent The Traveller and Other Stories, the Irish crime writer is a master of the disturbing and the macabre and his work so far is characterized by his almost obsessive engagement with the psychological state of his characters and the motivation that lurks behind their actions. His stories are focusing on the harsh everyday reality of ordinary people, struggling to survive in a hostile environment. To read my full review, visit https://tapthelinemag.com/post/house-...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This book is very well written, but it is emotionally draining because it is about multiple abusive relationships. It's creepy! Still, this author has talent. I don't like the genre, but that is a matter of personal taste. The book has received many raving reviews. This book is very well written, but it is emotionally draining because it is about multiple abusive relationships. It's creepy! Still, this author has talent. I don't like the genre, but that is a matter of personal taste. The book has received many raving reviews.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    Deeply atmospheric and more than a little disturbing. It was a bit short, and I could have done with a smidge more resolution, but that was clearly a choice.

  28. 5 out of 5

    amanda

    it’s a good book and very well written and intriguing but the subject matter is a bit too much for me. there’s a lot of abuse; physical, sexual, emotional and right now I can’t do it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Charisse

    This was depressing and frustrating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Stratton

    4⭐️ instead of 5 because I felt Mary’s story in the past was much more real than Sara’s. Her story felt flat.

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