The House Next Door, Anne Rivers Siddons, 1978
My favorite quote: “[The house] commanded you, somehow, yet soothed you. It grew out of the earth like an elemental spirit that had lain, locked and yearning for the light, through endless depths of time, waiting to be released…The creek enfolded its mass and seemed to nourish its roots. It looked – inevitable.”
Notable characters: Colquitt and Walter Kennedy, the unsuspecting couple; the house next door, their worst nightmare; Kim Dougherty, the architect; Pie and Buddy Harralson, the new homeowners
Most memorable scene: Finding the remains of wild animals and household pets around the construction site
Greatest strengths: Well-developed (though not particularly likable) characters, first-rate pacing, excellent plot twists
Standout achievements: This book puts a unique spin on the haunted house genre. Instead of having a sordid history, the home in The House Next Door is modern, newly-built — a ‘tainted creation’ so to speak, rather than a product of tragedy.
Fun Facts: In his book, Danse Macabre, Stephen King called The House Next Door one of the best genre novels of the 20th century
What it taught me about writing: This is one of a handful of novels that taught me that slow-growing, creeping horror is ultimately more powerful than the in-your-face, ax-wielding, bloody-murder stuff that is most often associated with the genre.
How it inspired my own work: This book has come up in many brainstorming sessions between Tamara Thorne and I as we’re plotting the many creepy houses that appear in the Thorne & Cross novels. The House Next Door is, to us, one of the definitive haunted house novels that all writers of the genre should familiarize themselves with
Other media: 2006 made-for-TV movie of the same name, starring Mark Paul Gosselaar and Lara Flynn Boyle
My rating: 4.5 of 5