Genres: Horror, Fiction, Paranormal
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Reading Challenges: 2016 Horror Reading Challenge
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Ben and Marian Rolfe are desperate to escape a stifling summer in their tiny Brooklyn apartment, so when they get the chance to rent a mansion in upstate New York for the entire summer for only $900, it’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. There’s only one catch: behind a strange and intricately carved door in a distant wing of the house lives elderly Mrs. Allardyce, and the Rolfes will be responsible for preparing her meals.
But Mrs. Allardyce never seems to emerge from her room, and it soon becomes clear that something weird and terrifying is happening in the house. As the suspense builds towards a revelation of what really lies behind that locked door, the Rolfes will discover that their cheap vacation rental comes at a terrible cost...
The basis for a classic 1976 film adaptation and an acknowledged influence on Stephen King’s The Shining, Burnt Offerings is one of the most original and scariest haunted house novels ever written. This edition, the first in decades, features a new introduction by award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones.
I read Burnt Offerings as part of the 2016 Horror Reading Challenge July Read-a-long. It took me a while to get into it, because I found it difficult to connect with the characters. Once the story got underway, though, I found it an easier read. Just not a satisfactory one. Maybe that’s why I have no memory of seeing the film adaptation as a kid. Nothing about this book is memorable.
Burnt Offerings tells the story of Ben and Marian Rolfe. They long to get away from the bustling summer in New York City, and look for a place to spend their summer. When they stumble upon an ad in the paper advertising a rental for a steal, they decide they can’t pass it up. Instead of their dream summer, they discover they’ve entered a nightmare. Written in a classic horror style, Burnt Offerings, should have been a wonderful horror story. Sadly, it didn’t. The characters, various plot holes, lack of real horror, and a confusing ending plagued this story.
The characters were very one-dimensional. Ben was a haggard school teacher, Marian an immature housewife, their son (thrown in for good measure), and an elderly aunt make up the main cast. Throw in the eccentric homeowners, and the plot became very predictable. As the weird things began to happen, I never cared if anyone got hurt, because Marasco never got me to care about them to begin with. All Ben did was ridicule his wife, while she became obsessed with the home. The son was basically nonexistent. He just came around to break or create tension it seemed. As for the aunt, she seemed like an interesting character, but never did anything of real importance.
At the heart of the story is the house. There was obviously something wrong with the house, but the elderly matron who lived in the west wing seemed to be the biggest mystery. The Rolfes were given the house for only $900 the entire summer as long as they provided three meals a day for the matriarch of the crazy brother and sister who let the place. However, instead of poltergeist, rooms of blood, or other creepy things this house just repaired itself. Scary indeed!
What irked me the most were the plot holes. The son sees the vision of a bloody tricycle that never makes another appearance. The Rolfes see a creepy, old shack they mistakenly assume is the rental, and never think of it again. There’s a pair of eyeglasses found in the pool that look as if the wearer met some awful fate while wearing them, yet… you guessed it, this line is dropped as well. Then there’s the limousine driver Ben is frightened of. Why? I don’t know. Black cars with drivers are scary I guess. Not important. Marasco just kept bringing it up. Maybe because I’ve ridden in black cars and limos before, but the idea of them don’t scare me. Then there’s the ending. I think I’ve figured it out, but who knows? I could be wrong. After reading this “chilling” horror yarn, Marasco leaves readers with an extremely bizarre ending that does nothing to really wrap the story up. In fact, I kept checking my kindle to see if I missed a page. If you’re looking for a good horror story, this isn’t it. Pass! Hard pass!