by Sarah Langan
Review by Harriet Klausner
Harper Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061624216
Date: 01 October 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The timing seemed miraculous as architect Audrey Lucas thought she was bound to the frontier of Queens after her relationship with her fiancé Saraub ended and she could not find an affordable apartment in Manhattan. That is until the Village Voice advertises a pre-war apartment in Morningside Heights for $999. She figures finding a place to live for under a thousand proves her luck is changing; now if her bipolar mom, Betty, can only recover from the coma she is in; all would be perfect for Audrey, who immediately moves into the Chaotic Naturalism style Breviary, constructed in 1861. It was one of the few such edifices still standing, as most had collapsed, or were condemned back in 1929.
When she took the apartment Edgardo the doorman warns her that the previous occupant of 14B, a mother drowned her four small children before killing herself. Although a bit shocked, Audrey still prefers overlooking Central Park from her turret window with bad vibrations rather than the atrocity of residing in the boroughs. Soon after moving into her new apartment, Audrey begins to fear she is losing her mind. Ghosts visit her cautioning her and other renters, whom she rarely sees as they are urban recluses, warn her to build a door before it is too late; these hermits hide behind their doors. As she wonders if she has gone insane and should be committed, OCD sufferer Audrey obsessively constructs a door in order to escape, but she remains ignorant as to why she builds the portal and what she needs to flee from.
The location by Columbia University makes for an intriguing haunted house thriller that will remind the audience somewhat of Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. The apartment, its fascinating macabre architecture that is described throughout, its history and the mostly octogenarian mortal and paranormal tenants add to a feeling of pending doom except when Audrey looks out in contrast at the pristine and serene Central Park as if outside her building is the escape to fresh air. Edgardo and the other people and ghosts Audrey meets inside the building add to the sense that something bad is going to happen to her as that is the building’s history.
Audrey is a terrific lead character who holds the suspense laden story line together even as she increasingly seems unable to hold her grip on sanity as her obsessive compulsive disorder has gotten worse since she moved in. She is a yuppie caught in a two prong emotional crisis with her first serious relationship ended and her mom in a coma triggering the worst of her OCD. This leaves fans wondering whether the plot is a ghost story or a psychological suspense until the climax. Although the climax is left in a haze of smoke that will keep readers wondering who did what, fans will enjoy this exciting haunted apartment thriller (or was that psychological suspense).