The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

the dead house

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’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading. (Goodreads)

Where do I even start with this review? Let’s start with the obvious – I have had this on my TBR list for quite some time…Surprise surprise. This book pretty much creeped me out. I was ok reading it during the day, I thought to myself this is going to be fine. Then nighttime descended… and then everything wasn’t. I pretty much left all of the lights on in the house and waited for my husband to get back before going to bed!

The thing that creeped me out the most wasn’t the fact that the main character had Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), nor was it the fact that this book was written in the form of a criminal investigation – which made it seem lifelike! No, this book crept me out as soon as the main character (Carly/Kaitlyn) described a girl, standing, staring at her and smiling. Just smiling. I think, if I was alone, in the dark and I saw someone staring at me, smiling – I would probably flip a lid and run to the nearest psychiatric hospital and stay there!! Of course, the dark floodway in my house started playing tricks on my mind and I was sure there was someone there… and then the house made its usual housely noises and I was convinced!

The main character has Dissociative Identity Disorder. During the day, she is a happy school girl called Carly, who has friends and has no problems mingling. She is pretty sweet and super bubbly when you get to know her. During the night, she transforms into Kaitlyn, almost a reclusive character, she isn’t really a people person until she meets Ari. It takes her a lot longer to let people in. I understand that DID is sometimes the result of a trauma (which this is the case in the book) because it helps to repress the memories the sufferer doesn’t want to remember. Without going back over my Psychology notes, I couldn’t fully say I remember a lot about DID, because I don’t. However, if this is what the sufferers feel, and this is something that they go through – or it could become this bad if not properly treated, it really is kind of scary. It is worrying to think that you could potentially go through something as horrific as this, without fully understanding or knowing what you are doing and why – or even doing something under the illusion of something different.

When we got toward the end, and other people were starting to help Kaitlyn attempt to find Carly, I found it difficult to believe that people would willingly fall into something as crazy as they did. I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil the book, but it became a little far fetched, which was then written off as group hysteria. Group Hysteria, I suppose, is a plausible explanation, but surely the others are then not completely sane of mind? Not that it matters, I guess!!

I literally recoiled when Naida did what she did. I do not want to reveal said action – but I literally recoiled and then sat there for five minutes staring at my kindle in horror. It was gross. It is also something that followed me around for a while. The fact that there was no justification as to why she did what she did.

I think the writing style was pretty unique. This book was written in the form of police interviews, diary entries, doctor’s reports and video footage. This made the events seem more realistic and I think this is what gave this book the creepy air about it. The fact that the police were seemingly investigating the “Johnson Incident” – as it is so dubbed in the book – makes the events more realistic and, hence, creepier!

I really enjoyed this book . even if it did keep me up at night! I am looking forward to reading more from this author! I gave this book 4/5 stars!

4 thoughts on “The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

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