Carly and Kaitlyn Johnson share the same body. Carly gets the day and Kaitlyn gets the night. Carly was treated for dissociative identity disorder, presumed to be triggered by the death of her parents. Twenty-five years ago the school they attended burned down and Carly vanished. Carly was assumed responsible but nothing proven, not until the discovery of a journal which sheds sinister new light onto the events leading up to the fire.
Told through Kaitlyn’s journal entries, transcripts, interviews and emails, The Dead House is genuinely creepy in the kind of way low budget horror films are. You don’t get to see the whole picture and often accounts just cut off. There are shadows just out of view and plenty of unanswered questions.
I liked how, initially, the lines are blurred between Carly’s mental illness and the possibility of supernatural elements. Is she having a psychotic break or is she being haunted? It’s just as terrifying to think that such real experiences can be triggered in our own minds. I was hoping it was going to explore more the idea of an alternate personality suffering from their own mental illness, separate to the dissociative identity disorder.
They try to trick me – lie to me. Tell me things… that are so beyond hurtful that I think they must be denizens from hell to do that. They make me feel like poison. Like an illness. A symptom of some horrible disease.
The story wavered for me once it started to focus on the Mala elements. From what I can gather, Mala is a fictional religion originating from the Scottish Islands, with a basis in voodoo. Naida, a fellow student at Elmbridge who films much of the events via the camera in her top hat, practices Mala and believes some bad mojo is infecting Carly and Kaitlyn.
Naida befriends both Carly and Kaitlyn, believing they are two souls in one body. Her friendship leads them either deeper into their psychosis or into a scary world of possession, depending on if you believe Dr Lansing or Naida. As the story gets darker, Kaitlyn starts to dream of the Dead House where Carly is trapped.
They saw a drunk, when I was broken.
They saw sarcasm, when I was sobbing.
They saw me push them away, when I was screaming for their love.
The ending is suggestively open but I felt it was leaning much more towards one viewpoint than the other. I couldn’t really accept the group hysteria theory in relation the events near the end.
The Dead House is published by Indigo, an imprint of Orion, and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 6th August 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.