The House That Horror Built by Christina Henry: Brilliant Horror

Harry Adams has always loved horror movies, so it’s not a total coincidence that she took the job cleaning house for movie director Javier Castillo. His forbidding graystone Chicago mansion, Bright Horses, is filled from top to bottom with terrifying props and costumes, as well as glittering awards from his career making films that thrilled audiences—until family tragedy and scandal forced him to vanish from the industry.

  Javier values discretion, and Harry has always tried to clean the house immaculately, keep her head down, and keep her job safe—she needs the money to support her son. But then she starts hearing noises from behind a locked door. Noises that sound remarkably like a human voice calling for help, even though Javier lives alone and never has visitors. Harry knows that not asking questions is a vital part of working for Javier, but she soon finds that the sinister house may be home to secrets she can’t ignore.

The House that Horror Built by Christina Henry is brilliant horror, playing on familiar tropes and twisting them in new directions. She has a way of pulling you into the world she builds from the very first sentence and you empathize with Harry Adams immediately. The story builds slowly but that allows the dread and intrigue to bubble up and develop as the reader gains insight into the truths of the house. 

One of the elements I loved the most was the use of movie references, how reminiscent the description of Javier’s films sound to other directors of horror, and how the genre is explored and discussed within the context of the novel. I also love how Daniel feels like a direct reference to a very familiar actor that I adore. I won’t tell you who but see if the character reminds you of anyone in the film industry. The use of movies and references to horror are part of what makes the narrative work, including the final revelations which are frankly brilliant. It is also brilliant the exposition in how women are treated by the media and by those in privilege, considered for their children or for how they can serve others rather than being seen for themselves and how often women convince themselves they are lesser than they deserve. The layers of the real world utilized within the novel are intriguing and will make readers think. 

If you love stories with ghosts and intrigue, with a pacing that will make your heart race, then I know you will love Christina Henry’s The House that Horror Built. It is brilliant horror with smart exploration of themes of privilege and horror film references. The ending is a creepy revelation and I love the characters, especially as both Javier and Harry’s pasts are unveiled for the reader. It is a novel that will keep you up at night. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 masks

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