cover image The September House

The September House

Carissa Orlando. Berkley, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-54861-5

If P.G. Wodehouse had written The Amityville Horror, the result might have approximated Orlando’s equally charming and spooky debut. Middle-aged, matter-of-fact, and stubborn, narrator Margaret Hartman has no intention of abandoning her Victorian dream home, even if her stolid housekeeper was in fact axe-murdered more than 100 years ago and the walls drip blood every September. (“It was going to be a long month. But that’s just the way of things.”) Margaret’s husband, unable to face another autumn of ghastly incursions, has left without word, and her daughter, Katherine, is about to visit for the first time, to search for him. Margaret must hide the haunted truths of her household from Katherine if she wants to avoid being bullied into moving—even if the facade of normalcy requires opening the dreaded basement door. As her neighbor Edie sighs, “Oh, Margaret, you’re in a real pickle.” That direct, practical voice is central to the pleasure of Orlando’s storytelling. While horror tropes abound, there are no screaming teens or action heroes—the ghosts are tactile and verbal, the neighbors know about the problem and pitch in, and, when push comes to shove, it’s a hard-won combination of biological and found family that unites to confront the supernatural threat. This utterly original haunted house tale is a joy. Agent: Katherine Odom-Tomch, Folio Literary. (Sept.)