House Of Skin – Jonathan Janz
Reviewed By Brian Bogart
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition edition (30 May 2019)
“All it needs to live again is fresh blood…..”
Oh. Is that all?
Well, then. Janz is pretty good at bringing that stuff…. Along with some flesh hinted at in the title to keep those hormones flowing in the meantime.
A re-release of an earlier work, House of Skin (Flame Tree Press) is a haunted house style story with plenty of sex and creepiness throughout.
(I will start off with a slight warning: some readers may find the constant descriptions of female anatomy and the leering ogling of the men in this early novel a bit much. Keep in mind, that this work is trying its damnedest to channel some of that old school, gratuitous “sexy” horror vibe of pioneers like Richard Laymon. That pastiche is not for everyone, so throwing that out there.)
Alcoholic writers. They are always fun to write about. Horror authors can’t seem to escape this trope, myself included in my own (unpublished) stuff. Said writers inheriting old Victorian estates? Now we have a creepy backdrop that allows Janz to show off his descriptive skills. While this story does get off to a slightly bumpy start- once it picks up momentum it begins to shine. Especially in the lunacy of the final act.
Welcome to Watermere.
Paul Carver, an aspiring writer, inherits the decaying estate. He sees this as a chance to start fresh, leave some of his past regrets and hostility behind him. Little does he realize, he’s only replacing those concerns with much more supernatural ones- complete with a dark family history waiting to be discovered- and some good old-fashioned grave dust to seal the deal. Or choke upon. Probably both.
While I did not find myself completely invested in the handful of characters presented in the modern day, it was the morbid historical moments that filled in the blanks of the house’s history that really gave this book life. Janz does occasionally jump around for trips into the past throughout and in these scenes, it really began to feel more “alive” to me. Myles Carver and the sadistic Annabelle really fascinated me.
By the time the third act kicks in, we are treated to some wonderful, over-the-top gothic spook fest descriptions that brought to mind the aforementioned Laymon mixed with a bit of Peter Straub. There are scenes intended to disgust, some to make the more shy readers blush, and plenty of shock and horror once the wheels start rolling.
Despite what I said earlier about the characters, for me, it honestly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment to be had here. That, if anything- proves exactly how talented Janz is (even in his early days) in aping the styles of his horror influences and making them his own, warts and all.
He might wear his influences on his sleeve a bit much here for some, but he proudly wears it like a tailored suit… made of human flesh, of course. Most readers will recognize this and take joy in the haunted halls of Watermere. There may even be a vacancy, just for you….
House Of Skin
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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