324 Abercorn: Mark Allan Gunnells
Reviewed By The Grim Reader
The life of a book reviewer is one of ups and downs. I know what I like to read. I have go-to authors and publishers that rarely disappoint, but sometimes things do not go as planned. Such is the case with 324 Abercorn by Mark Allan Gunnells. No place like home.
Before we get into this, I want you to know I’m a Gunnells fan. His short story collections often get the full 5-stars from the Grim Reader. 324 Abercorn is his latest novel that sadly falls well short of his usual high standards. Put your seatbelt on, because it’s a bumpy ride ahead.
If you are a regular horror reader, you will recognise the haunted house as a familiar trope. Some might say it is a trope that has been sat in the oven too long, becoming overcooked. Not so for me. I can live quite happily never reading another zombie, werewolf or vampire novel, but haunted houses still give the Grim Reader a thrill.
For such a short novel (170 pages), 324 Abercorn has strong characters. Acclaimed author Brad Storm (yes, that is his name) buys and renovates his dream home. The house has a torrid history of slavery buried beneath its foundations. When Brad meets local artist/tour guide Bias, love blossoms, and together with Bias’ quirky housemate Harold, Brad and friends set up shop in the historical city of Savannah where all is not as it seems.
The dialogue between characters is excellent, never seeming forced, and the extravagance of Harold is hugely entertaining. It’s easy to invest in their outcomes. Sadly, this is as good as it gets. The character/relationship development comes at the expense of any tension or horror arising inside the house. Very little happens save for the moving of books and the strange noises. And even then, events occur infrequently and are mostly caused by the cat which gets an unwelcome amount of page space in the book. When these things do happen, I shrugged my shoulders and was left unimpressed. The pacing of 324 Abercorn is also a problem. Haunted House stories generally speaking do not set the pulse racing with excitement. Instead, they often centre around unease, atmosphere and a sense of dread, something 324 Abercorn severely lacks. Still, at 170 pages, I was expecting things to move a little more quickly than they did.
Aside from the characters, the writing is solid. Gunnells has what I’d describe as a smooth reading style, one in which you become easily taken in by, but overall, 324 Abercorn falls well short when stacked up against other haunted house stories.
I’ll still purr when Gunnells publishes his next collection of short stories and snap it up in a heartbeat. Where he goes with his next novel will be interesting, he can still count me as a fan despite this misstep. A disappointing read. And so…
2/5 poorly organised ghost tours from the Grim Reader.
Brad Storm doesn’t believe in ghosts, but moving into the house at 324 Abercorn just may change his mind.
Best-selling author Bradley Storm finally has enough money to buy and restore his dream home. Despite 324 Abercorn’s reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America, Bradley isn’t worried. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Then strange things begin to happen. Objects no longer where he left them. Phantom noises heard from empty rooms. Shadows glimpsed from the corner of his eye.
Is his house truly haunted, or is there something more sinister happening on the property?
With the help of Bradley’s new boyfriend and a few friends who are just as intrigued with the seemingly inexplicable occurrences surrounding the infamous house, they set out to find the truth of what stalks the halls at 324 Abercorn.
You can buy 324 Abercorn from Amazon UK & Amazon US
The Grim Reader
The Grim Reader resides on the Gold Coast, Australia. A school teacher by day, a lover of dark fiction, heavy metal, Arsenal FC, bourbon and coffee at night.
The Grim Reader loves nothing more than reading and rocking.
I had read 324 Abercorn and was interested to read this review. Thank you for its honesty, and it gelled with what I thought to a tee. I always think ‘oh it’s me who doesn’t like this’. Yes great atmosphere and funny dialogue exchanges but blaming so much on the cat- is very old hat.
Yeah, a bit of a bummer for me as I’m a massive fan of Mark’s short fiction.