House of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli
Publisher: Grindhouse Press
Rating: 3 3/4
Still reeling from her brother’s mysterious disappearance, Karen Lewis is stunned when she recieves a phone call from her brother’s life partner, Rory, and the information that she has inherited her brother’s half of a bed and breakfast in the tiny WAshington state town of Fallen Trees. Desperate to know if the house holds any clues about her brother’s disappearance, she heads out into the forest with Rory and his friend Saul to explore the depths of the House of Fallen Trees.
The story begins with depressed, isolated writer Karen Lewis drifting through day after day, sleeping away as much of her time as she can. Her brother vanished several months before, so it weighs heavily on her mind. One night, she gets a strange phone call. “Two men have the corpse.” That phrase is a catalyst to the events that change her life.
The book got off to a great, creepy start. Ranalli is an excellent writer, and fantastic at creating moody, dark atmosphere. I love the ‘Two men” phrase, and couldn’t wait to see where that went. The character development is subtle, realistic, and very well done. I got a little frustrated with how often Karen freaked out screaming or went into hysterics, though. The story progresses quickly and it’s easy to get caught up in the mystery and the magic. Ranalli possesses the ability to weave old-school-style horror with the new trends in supernatural fiction. She’s got a tone that’s similar to Sarah Langan or Kaitlin R. Keirnan. Ranalli plunges into the visceral imagery that, remarkably sans gore, manages to be disturbing, grotesque, and startling.
I gave the book a 3 3/4 rating. I would have given it an even 4, but towards the end of the book, the supernatural elements of the book became a little bit disjointed. I’d really hoped for a differnet sort of payout from the “Two men” thing, but Ranalli’s explanation isn’t much of a revelation, and definitely left me disappointed. SHe did such an awesome job weaving this complex web of magic and hell and hope, and then…just sort of tied up that plot element with a short piece of string. At the end of the book, something sort of out of place happens, with nothing really leading up to it. I’m an ‘experienced’ reader–I can usually pick out the subtle clues, even the ones they don’t even realize they’ve placed in the story, that writers weave through their stories so when something twists, it makes sense, or at least I could see where the writer meant to go with it. The very last few sentences of House of Fallen Trees didn’t seem to line up exactly with the rest of the story. It felt just a little tacked on, like Ranalli just wanted to add one more little creepy punch to the story. I think it would have been better and brought the story full circle without it.
House of Fallen Trees is a good read, a great offering from a talented female writer in the fickle, mostly-male, horror genre. Definitely check it out!