"324 Abercorn" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing
Written by Mark Allan Gunnells
2020, 244 pages, Fiction
Released on July 3rd, 2020
I love haunted house stories. The idea of sharing your most intimate spaces with an unknown, unwelcome entity is as creepy as it gets. However, my love for haunted house narratives, and my regular consumption of them, is akin to my love and consumption of found footage films: I come across a lot of mediocre stuff. Fortunately, Mark Allan Gunnells’s 324 Abercorn doesn’t belong to that group. In fact, Gunnels’s latest is one of those novels that reinforces my love of this subgenre and keeps me coming back for more.
Brad Storm is a best-selling horror author whose success has finally allowed him to buy and restore the house of his dreams: 324 Abercorn, in Georgia. The house has a reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America. Ghost hunters know about it and tour guides point it out to tourists. However, Brad doesn't care because he doesn’t believe in ghosts. And not believing is fine, until strange things begin to happen around him. Things appear out of place, someone messes with his books, and weird sounds happen now and then. Ghosts don’t exist ceases to be an easy statement to make, and Brad begins to entertain the idea that his new place might indeed be haunted. With the help of his new boyfriend and his new friends, along with a small group of supernatural investigators, Brad sets out to find if 324 Abercorn is what people say it is.
Gunnells’s love for horror shines in this book. The atmosphere is creepy, the descriptions of the houses and its history add to the narrative, and the characters are well developed and operate to the benefit of the story. Also, it’s refreshing to see a cast of characters that reflect the diversity we so often miss in mainstream horror novels. There are burgeoning relationships in many horror stories, but the one here, a fun, fresh relationship between two very different men, is entertaining to read about and sometimes adds a touch of humor to counterbalance the darkness of the novel.
Haunted house stories need to get a lot of things right because readers already know what to expect, and Gunnells gets much of it right. For starters, the pacing is great. While there are many characters, and a dash of history, and even a few bits about writing as a career (I see you, Gunnells!), the narrative moves forward at a great speed and never becomes bogged down by any of those elements. Also, Gunnells nails atmosphere, which is often a make-or-break element in haunted house stories. There’s a cat in the story that provides some great moments, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Small details like sounds, strange shadows seen with the corner of the eye, and books moved around on their shelves add to the sense that there’s something wrong with the house.
A lot of horror fiction tries to focus on making people afraid. While that can work with some readers from time to time, it is not sustainable or even something you can do with everyone because we are all afraid of different things. Great horror fiction, more than making us afraid, has the ability to make us feel unsettled. Also, great horror is literature that always happens in the face of empathy. Gunnells pulls both of this things off here because his characters are likeable and we don’t want anything bad to happen to them...and we don’t know what that something is or what could bring it about.
As I mentioned in the intro, haunted house novels are a dime a dozen, and most of them aren’t that great. However, we keep coming back because those that get it right make up for all the others. Gunnells has written one of those that gets it right and ensures we keep reading haunted house narratives…and keep wondering what that sound we heard in the middle of the night was.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.