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  • Mandy McHugh

Nightingale House, Steve Frech: A Review

I don't know what it is about haunted house stories, but they get me every time. I was thrilled to receive a copy of Nightingale House and quickly dove in.

Daniel had just purchased his family's dream home following the successful publication of his debut novel when his wife is killed in a tragic car accident. He and his daughter Caitlyn move into the home, coping with the loss and determined to adjust to their new normal. But from the get-go, Nightingale House proves to be creepy, and Daniel realizes that in order to save his daughter, he's going to need to dig deep into the house's history and uncover the truth of a century-old disappearance. I really enjoyed this book. As a narrator, Daniel's voice was clear and crisp and easily readable. His grief manifests at night and in quiet moments when he misses his wife, an ache in the way she would've decorated a room or discussed an issue with their daughter. His care for Caitlyn was sweet, and I enjoyed their dynamic. Neighbor Mildred was also a personal favorite, and while her image shifted as I read, I found her most enjoyable when I pictured her as the old aunt from Ray Donovan. She serves as a much-needed comedic release when tensions run high, and I enjoyed their unlikely companionship. Told in alternating POVs--Daniel in the present and a series of diary entries from the 1900s--I will say that I found Daniel's investigation and overcoming challenges more interesting than the past voice. Her character felt a little more flat, more underdeveloped, and more stereotypical than his, and because of that, I wasn't too surprised at the course of her character arc. I wanted to like her or relate to her, but it was pretty clear where she was headed from the first entry. Frech did a wonderful job establishing quiet creepy moments, and I found those to be the best part of the reading. There's a certain chill factor before the mystery reveals itself, the gray area before you know if it's real or in the narrator's imagination, where the best tension lies, and Frech pulled some eerie haunting goodness from the depths. As a horror buff, I also liked the reference to House on Haunted Hill, as I'd been thinking of Vincent Price with the subtle allusion in the character's name. Pacing, structure, and voice were all on point, and overall, Nightingale House is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a good summer haunting. Thank you to HQ and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

 

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