"The House of Last Resort" Book Review

Written by Stephen McClurg

Published by St. Martin's Press

the house of last resort poster large

Written by Christopher Golden
2024, 292 pages, Fiction
Released on January 30, 2024


Christopher Golden’s The House of Last Resort begins with a tantalizing premise. Driven by the dream of a better life, we meet Tommy and Kate Puglisi en route to their new home, a grand Sicilian villa nestled in his family’s ancestral town of Becchina. This quaint town is wooing global wanderers with property deals, a strategy to revitalize its dwindling population. For Tommy and Kate, this means acquiring a mansion at an unbelievably low price. Caveat emptor, indeed. They soon discover their new address, 17 Via Dionisio, harbors a chilling moniker: “la casa dell’ultima risorsa.” In essence, Golden explores modern disillusionment, hope, and timeless terror in a tale of haunting where the past and present intertwine with the deepest consequences.

One cannot help but draw parallels to The Amityville Horror. As a teen, I dismissed the film as a middling horror flick. Yet, as an adult navigating homeownership on a modest salary, it became a narrative on both the crumbling American Dream and the yearning to improve the lives of one’s family members. The film’s haunted house became a metaphor for the economic despair of middle and lower-middle-class families and the feelings of personal failure that can possess those looking to better their lives, while all of it echoes the unsettling undercurrents of suburban graveyards and forgotten atrocities. In The House of Last Resort, Golden revisits these themes, but with a twist—he transplants the disillusioned dreamers to Europe, reflecting a world where digital nomads seek solace and lower costs of living in the Old Country.

Without divulging too much, Tommy and Kate’s quest for the American Dream now unfolds in the picturesque town of Becchina. The mansion seems too good to be true, and it is. There are elements of The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist, and the town includes a cult that would make Lovecraft smile and enough rats to make him start checking his own walls.

The book's opening promises a story vibrating with the poetic cadence of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House intertwined with the dark existentialism of Kathe Koja’s works. The first line, “The rats are like fingers,” grabbed me instantly. However, the narrative swiftly transitions into a more traditional style and plot. This shift isn't a flaw—Golden skillfully navigates gothic traditions and realism, even if it was not what I anticipated. While it is a skillfully made mainstream horror novel, the conclusion delivers a payoff that eclipses the conventional elements of the storyline.


Overall: 3 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Stephen McClurg
Staff Reviewer
No matter how hard he tries to focus on music, Stephen always gets called back to horror culture. The inciting incident is likely the night his grandmother cackled through his wide-eyed and white-knuckled first viewing of Jaws at three. The ‘70s were a different time. Over the years, he has mostly published poetry and essays, but started writing with a review section for the Halloween edition of the sixth-grade school newspaper. He rated titles like Creepshow with a short description and illustrated pumpkins. His teacher loved it, but the principal shredded the final version before distribution since all the movies were rated R.
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