Devil House by John Darnielle

What do you want to be when you grow up? Are you sure? Where will you be when you grow up?

Gage Chandler is a true crime writer whose claim to fame was writing a book about a couple of teens who were killed by a teacher, Diana Crane, also known as the White Witch. What he found out about the murders would profoundly navigate the rest of his career. A career which has basically stalled.

But he is now given the chance of a lifetime! When asked if he would like to do a story about a double killing in the 1980’s in a porn shop, which has since been converted into a house in which he can live in while doing his research he is not convinced at first, but finally agrees.

The house is known in the town of Milpitas, California as the Devil House because when they found the mutilated bodies of the realter and owner of the building, there were satanic writings and graffiti everywhere. This was a time when satanic rituals among teenagers was very prominent. No one was ever charged with the brutal crimes. And to make matters worse, this small town had a previous murder back in 1981. A woman was raped and murdered, and a movie called River’s Edge was made about the case.

Locals are not happy to see a writer not only living in the house but stirring up all the bad vibes from the past. So as Gage immerses himself in research about what the history is of the Devil House and finding out that at the time of the murders two teenage boys, Derek and Seth had basically taken over staying in the building when the manager of the store had taken off, his imagination takes off.

He sets about interviewing people and begins to get a sense of what was happening at the time of the murders, with the teenagers and life in general in the small town. The deeper he delves the more he returns to his first book and how sometimes things are not as they appear to be. Although the stories are completely different, the similarities are concerning to him.

In most tragic murder cases there is the truth and there is what people believe or want to believe is the truth. There are suspects and there are individuals some wish were suspects. There is folklore which some take as fact. Gage finds himself totally immersed in not only this aspect of his current research, but in his past work.

He also realizes at some point that he grew up with a friend who moved to this small town during the time frame of the murders. As he reaches out to his friend for assistance Gage is at a crossroads in his career as to how to go forward. Sometimes a murder is sadly, just that even though everyone wants to believe it was more. It is up to the writer to either tell the facts as they are or embellish the truth for more interesting content. That is his quandary.

The Devil House is an interesting look at what being a true crime writer must be like. Thank you #NetGalley #MCD #DevilHouse #JohnDarnielle for the advanced copy.

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