My original SICK HOUSE audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.
Usually, the haunted house and the home invasion story are two separate tropes within the horror genre, although it could be argued the two certainly have a fair share of overlap, particularly in terms of how the terror is delivered. In Sick House, Jeff Strand tears down whatever walls were separating these particular types of stories to deliver a tale of a home invasion from beyond the grave, one that is, in typical Jeff Strand tradition, laced with plenty of humor in between buckets of blood and gore.
Few authors straddle the realms of comedy and horror as well as Strand, and it can be a difficult balancing act to simultaneously make a reader laugh and feel grossed out. For Strand, though, it’s a natural talent and his comedic chops are firmly on display here. Paige, the thirteen-year-old daughter of new homeowners Boyd and Adeline Gardner, is quintessentially Strand, constantly trying her parents with her outlandish, ribald commentary that leaves Boyd demanding to know, “Why are you so comfortable with me?!” The dialogue between each of Strand’s characters is witty and tack-sharp, and it’s always a pleasure to listen to the character’s conversations unfold.
This lightness, however, is offset by moments to makes you squirm and, eventually, sheer brutality. Shortly after moving into their new home, the Gardener’s begin to notice that their freshly bought groceries rot with incredible swiftness, and soon several of them become ill. Odd occurrences mark their days with increasing rapidity until the ghosts finally make their presence known and the terror sets in. Strand delivers a number of extremely well-executed and shockingly violent set pieces as the Gardener’s struggle to survive, but it comes with a minor caveat. Some of the metaphysical shenanigans got a little too cartoonish for me, but I still found Sick House to be solidly entertaining overall.
Joe Hempel’s narration is wonderfully straight-forward, which serves to help keep the material grounded. I think that a less capable narrator might be inclined to ham it up and lean hard into some of the book’s slapstick elements, but Hempel acts as the straight man to Strand’s comedic stylings. Hempel and Strand make for a great double act, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Joe to not crack up at some of the material he reads here. Thankfully, the narration is smooth and flawless, uninterrupted by gales of laughter and gasps of discomfort, which is left entirely up to the audience to supply.
[Note: Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com]
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