Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun
Reviewed by Morgan K. Tanner
I wouldn’t say that the haunted house story is my favourite kind of horror tale, but I’m certainly not averse to them. Like so many sub genres of horror, this kind of tale has been done many times before and it takes a certain brilliance to re-invent the classic story.
I wouldn’t say Fountain Dead has done this, but the novel is certainly one of the better haunted house stories I’ve read.
The narrative switches between two storylines; a family moving in to an infamous house in the 1980s, and a family already living there in the 1860s.
We have Mark, an awkward teenager who misses his best friend in more ways than one, and his family packing up their old life as his parents relocate for work at the local University; they’re medical types.
Mark’s not your typical teenager; he’s actually kinda nice to his parents and gets on with his little sister. I’m sure this is because he’s a metal-head, though, we’re just the best! Because of the excellent characterisation of Mark, when the presence of the spirits begin to make themselves known, you’re really on his side as he tries to make sense of what’s going on around him.
Back in the past, the house is owned by a family using it as a kind of hospital setting, aiding those injured in the civil war. The family appear friendly enough, but Daddy the doctor has some rather dark secrets locked away deep in the basement. It seems his ‘research’ is more important than his daughter, Emma, who is more than capable of holding her own in the world, though.
What struck me with the storytelling was how matter-of-fact the scares were. Let me elaborate. Instead of the tension building with strange sounds, a cool chill, characters walking through the dark to a shadowy mass hiding in the corner; the terrors are simply described as they happen, letting you decide how scary they are. Had this been written in the first person then this tactic would have fallen flat on its face. But the fact that we’re not hand-held through a character’s emotions makes us, the reader, more scared. I really liked this aspect.
As I read this I found myself drawn more towards the storyline set in the 80s with the olden times accounts acting as back up for the main action. However, as the story progressed and things in the civil war era hotted up, I was aching to find out what happened to Emma.
When Mark’s dad finds a skeleton in the basement, things really start to heat up. Mark’s already interacting with a spirit, so what exactly is going on?
I won’t mention any plot points because that will ruin your enjoyment as the secrets of the old house are revealed. The place is somewhat of a local legend and when Mark befriends a kid named Hexx, his new friend’s great grandmother is very wary of him, herself knowing more than she’d like to about the house.
So if you’re a fan of haunted house tales you should really be checking this one out, and fans of horror in general will find enjoyment from this not-just-a-run-of-the-mill ghost story.
Check it out!
About Morgan K. Tanner
Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment.
When he’s not writing or inflicting pain and suffering on his numerous victims, he indulges himself in all things horror and metal.
His debut novella, An Army of Skin is available now.