Burnt Offerings: Robert Marasco
Reviewed By Fiona Dodwell
This book was originally released in 1973, but was re-released by Valancourt Books. I’m currently making my way through a pile of older horror novels, mainly from the 70s (with a few occasional titles from the 50s/60s). For some reason I just felt in the mood to retrace the roots of horror and read some vintage titles that I hadn’t read before, and I’ve really been enjoying the experience.
I had heard of Burnt Offerings before, but didn’t know much about it. It turned out to be a creepy, atmospheric tale that was unlike any other “haunted house” book I’ve read. It traces the story of the Rolfe family who, after getting fed up of their hot, over-crowded and noisy apartment block, decide to rent out a large home for the summer holidays. Yes, there are a couple of cliches involved, for instance: why does the house they rent for their holiday come at such a cheap cost? The family are told there is one condition to them renting the property at such a good price: they must allow an elderly woman – Mrs Allardyce – to stay there. She is private, never leaves her room, in fact, she won’t be a problem at all. The Rolfe family will never even notice she’s there!
Well, as every horror story goes…. things take a turn for the sinister. Things start to come undone for the family very quickly. There’s plenty of creepy scenes and the house itself is very unsettling, as are the changes in the central characters of the story.
I found this novel to be really well written, and it has aged well. It drags you in and keeps you engrossed. It was fun to read and the ending (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) is freaky enough to stick with you long after the last page.
I highly recommend Burnt Offerings if you like slow-burning, atmospheric novels. An uneasy tale that really gets under your skin.
Ben and Marian Rolfe are desperate to escape a stifling summer in their tiny Brooklyn apartment, so when they get the chance to rent a mansion in upstate New York for the entire summer for only $900, it’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. There’s only one catch: behind a strange and intricately carved door in a distant wing of the house lives elderly Mrs. Allardyce, and the Rolfes will be responsible for preparing her meals.
But Mrs. Allardyce never seems to emerge from her room, and it soon becomes clear that something weird and terrifying is happening in the house. As the suspense builds towards a revelation of what really lies behind that locked door, the Rolfes will discover that their cheap vacation rental comes at a terrible cost . . .
The basis for a classic 1976 film adaptation and an acknowledged influence on Stephen King’s The Shining, Burnt Offerings is one of the most original and scariest haunted house novels ever written. This edition, the first in decades, features a new introduction by award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones.
Fiona Dodwell has been writing fiction for almost 10 years, with several horror/paranormal titles released under various publishers. Alongside this, she is a freelance writer for various websites and magazines. She has written features for Warner Music, Made In Shoreditch Magazine, Music-news.com and Tremr.
Fiona has studied Psychology, Film Studies, Theology and Health & Social Care.
Her biggest passion is reading dark fiction, as well as creating new stories of her own – the creepier the better!
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