The Grip of It

When Julie and James Khoury's marriage nearly ends because of his gambling addiction, they decide to make a fresh start by moving to a new town. They purchase a large Victorian home idyllically situated between a forest and lake. Even more attractive is its low price, thanks to being on the market for some time. 

At first, the young couple dismisses the odd sound that permeates the house's interior as something electrical, an easily fixed nuisance, but soon the strange noise intensifies. "It's like a mouth harp. Deep twang. Like throat singing. Ancient. Glottal. Resonant. Husky and rasping, but underwater." More bizarre incidents follow: Julie develops ghastly bruises, stains appear on the walls, objects disappear and vultures gather in the backyard, where mysterious phantasmal children climb trees. Julie and James seek information about the previous owners from their eccentric, reclusive neighbor Rolf Kinsler, whose tragic past may be connected to their terrifying present.

Jac Jemc (A Different Bed Every Time) has crafted a dark psychological thriller that effectively uses the destruction within a couple's new home as a funhouse mirror to reflect the emotional disintegration that occurs after trust and honesty collapse. "The inability to trust ourselves is the most menacing danger. I fear what we could find there. I fear what we won't. What is worse? To be confronted with an obvious horror, or to be haunted by a never-ending premonition of what's ahead?" In short chapters alternating between Julie's and James's narratives, The Grip of It asks whether it is possible fully to excavate emotional demons with a tight grasp on the souls. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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