Wednesday 5 August 2015

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The frontispiece of Kaitlyn Johnson's journal shows a hand-drawn cross hatch and bears the inscription:
I curse anyone who reads this book.
If you touch it, hell will be waiting.
Screw you, happy reading.

Published by Indigo in August 2015
Pages - 438

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’?
Reviewed by Vivienne Dacosta

I do love a scary book and this one certainly fits the genre! 
The story is told in an unusual format, requiring some work from the reader. A collection of diary entries, video transcripts, newspaper articles and interviews lead us through the story of Kaitlyn and Carly. You might think they are sisters until you realise they both share the same body. Kaitlyn lives by night, while Carly inhabiting the day. They communicate by diary. How messed up is that? Yet the author makes it seem extremely believable.  There is talk of schizophrenia and that Kaitlyn might not really exist, but I never doubted her voice or her existence. Each character showed signs of a lack of control, which would be completely understandable under the circumstances - not knowing what your body is doing when you aren't in it. 
This tale spirals down into darkness as people disappear following dabblings in rather dark witch craft. It isn't the type of book you should read at night. The girl that appears is extremely scary and would definitely feel at home in a  horror movie.  This book reminded me of the scary tales written by Marcus Sedgwick and Cliff McNish, so it isn't surprising that it fitted so well into the Indigo imprint.
The ending completely caught me out. I wasn't expecting it at all. A truly remarkable debut novel. 
I think Dawn Kurtagich is a debut author we need to watch out for in the future. 

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