I’ve been an admirer of Billy O’Callaghan’s short stories for some time and was looking forward to the release of his début novel The Dead House for months. Billy is an accomplished writer who has a natural ability to be able to create all-too-human characters so reading a novel about ghosts was somewhat of a break from his award winning short-story collections such as The Things We lose, The Things We Leave Behind.
When most readers think of ghost stories they automatically think of clichéd spectral apparitions appearing in haunted houses which most will agree has been done to death! But this story is different. Yes, there are spectral apparitions appearing in haunted houses but the story is delivered in a way that makes you doubt the sanity of the characters and also question whether you as a reader, believe in ghosts.
The story begins when friends Mike, Maggie, Alison and Liz meet up for Maggie’s house-warming after she decided to leave her old life and abusive ex behind to live the life of an artist in a cottage in the remotest part of West Cork. After having a few drinks, Liz pulls out a Ouija board, as you do after a bout of whisky. What starts off as a bit of harmless entertainment soon takes a nasty turn.
I’ve only ever dabbled with a Ouija board once and have to admit it scared the bejeeepers out of me. The Dead House captures this primal fear and fills you with a psychological dread that is hard to shake. I’m not usually phased by scary movies or ghost stories but found this story genuinely creepy, even to the point of having a nightmare after reading it.
There are writers who call themselves authors or refer to themselves as novelists. Then there are natural born storytellers who have an innate talent for understanding the human mind and being able to weave it together with archetypes and myth. Billy O’Callaghan is one of those types of storytellers whose prowess is clearly on display with his impressive début novel.
I suppose, in the final analysis, this story will hang on a single burning question:
Do you believe in ghosts?
Read a free sample of The Dead House below..