Young second wife Veronica Croydon has lost her Dickens-specialist much older husband Roger. Academic friends speculate as to his disappearance. Finally, at a house party in Cape Cod Veronica tells the framework narrator, a writer of horror fiction, the story of what she believes happened.
John Langan’s novel House of Windows is suffused with Dickens. But as our writer listens to Veronica’s tale, I cannot help but think of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner who “stoppeth one of three” (our writer is accompanied by his wife and son). Like the Mariner, Veronica is compelled to tell her story. Like the wedding guest, the writer is compelled to listen.
There is a haunted house. There a haunted person (but the person who one might think would be most haunted seems oblivious to the hauntings). There is a curse.
That curse, when I got to it, struck me as being one of the most horrendous in all literature. I think only Shakespeare could have equaled it. I’m not sure he ever topped it. I wonder if Langan had trouble writing it, or if possibly it leapt into his mind like a kick from an angry god.
The book was originally published in 2009. Why didn’t I read it then? It would definitely seem like my kind of book. Well, I had lost Tom, my companion of 40 years, at the end of 2007, and I was still dealing with his loss and with all that remains of someone when he dies that must be dealt with and disposed of. And it 2009, my beloved dog Roscoe was entering his final illness. My hands and heart were full. And in 2012 my macular degeneration had advanced to the point where I found it increasingly hard to read the printed book.
But already it was on my Amazon wishlist when Langan’s next book, The Fisherman, was published. That one I got to first (using my Kindle) and adored. I found out via Facebook that a Kindle version of House of Windows would be available in the summer of 2017. The day it was available I ordered it and began reading.
No, it is not, for my taste, quite as wonderful as The Fisherman. I wish that I had read it first. But it was not a disappointment. And I found fascinating echoes between the two works. With these two novels Langan has moved to the forefront of the short list of great writers of fictions that might involve horror. Trust me: they involve much more than that.