Book Review: The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich

Synopsis:the dead house cover

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

I receieved a free e-copy of this book courtesy of Hachette Children’s Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The structure of the book was not for me, which was quite disappointing as I absolutely loved the premise of it and literally could not wait to explore what the book held within its pages. The writing style – full of reports and interview transcripts just didn’t stick well with my brain and the length of the book, whilst not excessively long at 440 pages made reading it somewhat tedious for me.

I guess part of my disappointment came from my expectation to be completely blown away by the story. Stories about psychological (if you could call it that – I never really pieced together what was going on fully, so let’s just say psychological) phenomena with such a supernatural vibe never cease to leave me speechless, but somehow this one did just that. I finished the book and put it down with a sigh, and I do not think that it was a content one.

However I did read all of it, and I’m glad I did, because Kurtagich had a few aces up her sleeves, namely a few plot twists I really did not see coming which really added to my reading experience. I don’t think the book would have fared as well as it did in my eyes without them.

However, I expected for the book to be much more scary, and whilst I was definitely perturbed by what was happening at a few points along the way (the details of said said scenes will not only be left out for the good of future readers, but also for my own sanity)  – it’d be difficult not to given the story was largely set in an asylum where normal happenings are, well – not normal. But I wasn’t scared, except maybe for the inevitable fate of the characters when they decided to mess with what was basically a more powerful Ouija board… which is NEVER a good idea. It was then that I was almost terrified at what the characters could have unleashed… and perhaps the idea of Dee also scared me quite a bit too, because we never really find out what the heck she/he/it was.

One thing I really loved about the book was its unreliable narrator(s), they just worked and made the book sufficiently confusing and ambiguous for me to not be able to be sure of anything that happened, and whilst normal people would deem this as a bad thing,  I don’t and really like books that do that and I’m on a never-ending quest to find more.

Overall, I know that this book wasn’t a bad one… Why it left me so disgruntled?

I don't have a good answer

But I do know that it was not through the fault of the author herself, because the actual writing within the structure that really did not sit well with me was great and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Kurtagich’s work.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

You can make yourself believe anything if you lie to yourself enough.”



4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich

  1. Great review! I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy it more, though.

    Despite this being an absolutely weird and freaking creepy book, I absolutely loved it. The way the format in which the book was written was so incredibly unique and interesting…at the time, I hadn’t read another book like that, so it was really cool at first, but I did find myself wishing I knew what the heck was going on (especially toward the end…what WAS that?). I can’t wait to read the next book from this author, though…she definitely has talent!


    • I’m glad you loved it! I felt awful after finishing it because I just knew that I could not give it a higher rating, personally. The ending also threw me off, the story got sooooo messy! But yes, Kurtagich definitely has something to her writing that makes it worth reading. Thanks for commenting!


  2. Brilliant review! I haven’t read The Dead House yet and your detailed descriptions have confirmed my suspicions about this book lacking the ‘scare factor’ which I love to see in psychological thrillers. I’ll definitely pick this up at some point but not anytime soon.


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