The House of Little Bones by Beverley Lee
Book review by Shane Douglas Keene
…curses lie in bones, and they do not die
In a very small nutshell, David Lansdown, an acclaimed British horror author gets caught having an affair with a much younger man. No biggie, right? At least not to me, not usually. But his lover, Luca Fox-Waite is his publisher’s son. His publisher is his best friend. Oops. So he finds himself in a public scandal and, at his agent’s bidding, retires to a house in a place called Bone Hollow. That’s the point in the horror flick where the audience goes, “Well now he’s fucked…” It’s also the point I’m going to tell you, A) the audience is correct, and B) if you want more, there’s a synopsis for that. Let me spend the rest of this time telling you why I love this book.
By the time I got to beta/critique Beverley Lee’s outstanding novella, The House of Little Bones, I had just finished reading what turns out to be her fourth novel, The Ruin of Delicate Things, and had started on her debut trilogy, The Gabriel Davenport Series. And it’s safe to say I was already in love with this author and had decided I wanted to read all the dark wonders that have dripped like blood from her delightfully poisoned pen. So when she asked me to be her critique partner for this one, it was a no-brainer for me. Resoundingly, hell yes.
And I’m glad I did. I knew going into it that Lee is one hell of a fine novelist and short story writer, and also has a flair for poetry–you’ll see that for yourself in her prose–but this is her first novella. It remained to be seen whether she had the same alacrity with the form as she does with everything else I’ve mentioned above. I was confident she did, though, and I was not disappointed. Far from it.
Because this author has a working formula she can’t go wrong with. She loves her characters. It’s that simple and effective, and because of it, the stories and novels she writes resonate with you long after the dance is over. You’ll find yourself loving her cast too, or loving to despise them, and that’s good too. And The House of Little Bones is a perfect example of both those truths.
It’s a story of love, betrayal, and utter terror that took no time whatsoever winning my heart and subsequently breaking it. Luca, even though David has left him behind and is rejecting all contact, is still in love, despite David’s betrayal, and it ups the humanity and emotion of the story to painful, emotionally charged levels that may leave your eyes a little watery before you finish. As Luca investigates the enigmatic place known as Bone Hollow, Lee intersperses her tale with bits of backstory, revealing horrors and misdeeds of the past that have led up to the events of this ultimately terrifying tale.
What Beverley Lee does here–really, with all her books–is nothing short of fascinating and refreshing. It takes you about four pages before you’re in love with Luca and rooting for his cause. He’s a tragic character who’s been betrayed by everyone he loves, and yet, he continues to love, and even to try to protect David Lansdown. The author writes these young, sensitive men better than anyone, and she writes queer men in such a way that they’re just characters in the story, and their queerness is just part of their arc, not the story. We need more authors like her, ones who help to normalize diversity and marginalized characters. When it comes to Keeping Horror Queer, Beverly Lee is my hero, and I hope more authors from all backgrounds seek to emulate her attitude toward human beings. Bonus for the author, it gives the story dimensionality and a sense of reality that is lacking in a lot of cishet narratives.
Beverley Lee starts with an embryo and nurtures and raises it, letting it form outward from her characters hearts, growing the story piece by piece until it’s complex, achingly human, gutting, and filled with intense feeling. In the end, that’s what makes horror for me. Make me love the people you love, I will love the story they’re living too. I love this story. If you’ve not had the pleasure of her words yet, you should unfuck that now and go pre-order this book.