Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Bliss House"

Laura Benedict’s latest dark suspense novel is Bliss House, praised as “Eerie, seductive, and suspenseful,” by Edgar award-winning author, Meg Gardiner. Benedict is also the author of Devil's Oven, a modern Frankenstein tale, and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts and Isabella Moon.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bliss House and reported the following:
What luck! While page 69 is not an entire printed page in the book, it does begin one of the most critical chapters in Bliss House.

Bliss House is my love letter to the great haunted house novels, The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) and Hell House (Richard Matheson). But there’s a murder mystery as well, and the murder comes soon after this scene.

By page 69, Rainey Bliss Adams and her daughter, Ariel, are well-settled into Bliss House. They’ve moved from St. Louis, where Rainey’s husband (Ariel’s father), Will, was killed when their house exploded from an accidental gas leak. Ariel is fourteen years old, scarred, and very withdrawn. She secretly loves the massive, mysterious house that’s surrounded by tattered gardens, deep woods, and orchards, and believes it’s helping her heal. She also has seen her father’s ghost, which has told her he’ll be watching over her.

But Bliss House is not a quiet, benign sort of house. There are strange noises and they’ve heard stories about its tragic past. Ariel herself has been under attack from invisible assailants, but Rainey is having a hard time believing that there’s something truly wrong.

Page 69 is the first page of Chapter 13 (appropriate, yes?). A sound wakes Ariel in the darkness of her room. She’s finally gotten to sleep after the big housewarming party her mother threw the evening before. At first, she thinks it might be her father who has awakened her, and she’s reassured by the noise of crickets coming from outside. But the sound continues, and she gets up to find its source.
This sound was inside the house. Not rhythmic, but insistent. Someone running. Voices, but not happy ones.

I won’t be afraid.
She gets out of bed to put on an elaborate silk robe she’d found in one of the house’s unused closets. (Neither she nor her mother have any idea who it belonged to. Just the idea of the robe worries Rainey.) The robe makes Ariel feel graceful, something she hasn’t felt in a very long time--at least not since the accident, which left her relying on a cane. Since she’s come to Bliss House she’s had to rely on it much less frequently, and she’s been in almost no pain.

The page closes with Ariel going out into the second floor gallery outside her bedroom door. She looks up to the third floor where she thinks the sounds are coming from. (No one sleeps upstairs.) We leave her in the moonlight that shines through the clerestory windows around the base of the dome painted with stars that crowns the top of Bliss House.
Visit Laura Benedict's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.

--Marshal Zeringue