And despite my best attempts to be rational, I was afraid. I could feel the house’s atmosphere, that eerie swirling in the corners of the room and the folds of the curtains and behind the furniture. It wasn’t explicit; there was no sudden breathless rush, sucking the air out and dragging the walls in on me, but there was a feeling of underlying menace, a flexing of muscle. I kept my eyes pressed tightly shut all night, childishly afraid of what might be standing at the end of the bed if I were to open them. -From The House At Midnight, page 193-
Lucas Heathfield’s Uncle Patrick commits suicide and leaves Lucas a rambling country house in England along with his accumulated wealth. Lucas invites his collegiate friends to escape their lives in London and party on the weekends at his new digs. But what begins as sheer abandon from responsibility soon becomes a dark, psychological mystery. Joanna, Lucas’ best friend, narrates the novel and slowly reveals the throbbing sexual undercurrents and malevolent forces hidden between the walls of the house. The novel is full of buried secrets and uneasy parallels between generations. Nothing is as it seems; and beneath it all is a tension which builds to a shocking conclusion.
Lucie Whitehouse knows how to structure a novel of suspense, but her writing was sometimes uneven and the end leaves the reader wondering at the future of its characters. There is a lot of heavy drinking and a strong sexual theme to the book which may offend some readers – although I actually thought the sexual tension was the strongest part of the narrative.
The House At Midnight is a story of growing up in the shadow of family secrets, and about betrayal and fear. The strongest character in the book is non human – the monolithic house which Lucas inherits and the ghosts which inhabit it. Whitehouse lends a gothic feel to her writing which drives the story.
The House at Midnight is Whitehouse’s first novel – and it is a well-written debut that reads like a ghost story. Readers who enjoy gothic novels and are not put off by sexual themes and moral excesses will find this to be a compelling read.