Beneath the Stairs
“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me
In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.
Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.
Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.
An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.
Octagon House in Sumner's Mills, N.Y., the setting of Fawcett's atmospheric if clich -hobbled debut, is notorious for the never-solved disappearance of its builder's fianc e and her six-year-old daughter in 1936 and the murderous attack on a mother and her two young girls there in 1965. In the present, the ruined house's pernicious pull threatens Clare Madden and Abby Lindsay, long-estranged childhood friends who remain haunted in different ways after their traumatic experience there as teens in 1998. When Abby's parents reach out to tell Clare that Abby's hospitalized following an apparent suicide attempt at Octagon House, Clare, whose life in Chicago has been unraveling after a miscarriage, returns to help and to see if she can figure out how to finally free them both from the house's spell. Fawcett skillfully intercuts present-day action with flashbacks to adolescents Abby and Clair and Octagon House's fraught earlier history, but the genuine horrors she gradually reveals are buried under haunted-house chestnuts and jumbled plotting leading to what feels like a forced optimistic finale. The imaginative flair she displays promises better for next time. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary.