Release Date – September 1, 2020
“My dear Clara, it seems that the White House is haunted.”
– Major Archie Butt, summer 1911.
The only written record of ‘the Thing’ that haunts the White House has always fascinated me. Growing up, my Grandma Hankins always had copies of the Weekly World News sitting around her house, and I remember one such story vividly – the ghost in the White House. Is it Lincoln’s son who died while he was in office? Is it Pierce’s son who died in a train accident prior to his presidency?
No matter what it is, Pyper has latched onto an amazing moment in US paranormal history and created a stunning dread-filled story.
It’s no secret I’m a Pyper fan. His writing voice is second to none and his novels have a way of immediately capturing your attention and then keeping you engrossed. One such trait Pyper has, that many “high profile” authors lack, is his willingness to go there. The darker areas. The seedier spots of horror. A perfect example is the ending to his last novel ‘The Homecoming,’ or the horrors that he wrapped his readers in with ‘The Demonologist.’ Pyper is willing to make his readers squirm and with ‘The Residence’ boy does he ever.
What I liked: While I was reading this, I tweeted out how this book read like Pyper’s writing in 2020 with the dread he infused in ‘Lost Girls.’ When I read ‘Lost Girls’ I knew something bad had happened, something I didn’t want to know. But Andrew pulled me along and when it came together you felt heart broken and despondent. Much like Andrew Cull’s recent release ‘Remains,’ ‘The Residence’ at its core is a story about grief and how it affects those impacted by it. Both physically and psychologically. There are essentially four main characters playing out here; President Pierce, his wife Jane, The White House itself and the presidency. You see, as things continue to spiral and Jane grows more and more withdrawn, Pierce constantly has to decide what can and can’t be made public and how the perceptions of the people to his decisions will look. Pierce had a presidency marked with highs and lows within the slavery era, and while Pyper touches on that, he does so with delicacy.
The story arc of Jane was really well done, and while you may argue that the main character was Pierce, I’d suggest that the true character to follow was her and her struggles, her acceptance and her resolve.
The secondary characters here were also fantastic. Pyper used them as fantastic set pieces, coming and going as needed and aiding when asked. You could see that they had a singular devotion – to the house and the presidency.
Lastly – ‘the Thing.’ The synopsis tells us upfront that after losing their son Bennie and then moving into the White House, Franklin and Jane begin to experience things. That synopsis does not prepare you in the least for what is to come. Pyper has once again crafted some amazingly frightening moments, parts in this book will stay with you for many, many years to come. To say I was riveted really doesn’t do it justice. Outstanding frights.
What I didn’t like: I loved this book, but there was two small parts that I found wishing for more. The first was Jane’s relative. Because Jane is unwilling to participate in public events, Pierce recruits a stand-in for her. They do develop some feelings towards each other; Franklin struggling with seemingly having lost his son to death and his wife to grief, but then for a period, the relative disappears and we don’t hear much from her.
The second part that I wished for more was hearing about the sisters who rose to prominence in paranormal circles. Pyper does have them both for a period featured and then one of the sisters returns near the end, but the paranormal fan in me was hoping they’d play a bigger role.
Neither of these things worked as a detriment to the overall story, and truthfully – this is more me splitting hairs to show that I can look at and read a Pyper book fairly!
Why you should buy it: This one ticks off a number of boxes for horror/thriller/ghost fans. This has moments that made me feel like it had been influenced by The Shining as well as Books of Blood period Barker. The descriptions are lush yet pointed, creating a claustrophobic setting in a house that is expansive and a mansion.
Pyper, to me at least, is the most confident writer I’ve ever read who is unfailing in his approach to delivering. From the beginning, to the middle and then the ending, everything has a place, a purpose. Just look at the toy mentioned throughout – The General. If you have any plastic army men kicking around, you’ll never look at them the same way after one particular scene.
I know I frequently sing my praises for Pyper – but rightfully so. After delivering a stunning novel in ‘The Homecoming’ to return in such short time with an absolute gem of historical fiction with this shows he’s really found a groove and there seems to be no slowing down.
Recently it was announced that this book had been picked up for production to become a historical fiction/non-fiction series. Now having finished this book, that couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
For new fans or fans of old, Pyper has given us another gift and easily one of his best books. I’m so thankful to have been allowed to give this one an early read and it didn’t disappoint.
Thank you to Skybound Books, Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster Canada and Andrew Pyper for the copy for review. Thank you to Michael Patrick Hicks for giving me the heads up that this was available on Edelweiss and thank you to Edelweiss for the approval. I already have the Hardcover and the Kindle copies pre-ordered!