The House in the Pines
reviewed by Pam Guynn
The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes is an atmospheric psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator. This debut novel features twenty-five-year-old Maya who is still haunted by her childhood best friend’s death (Aubrey West) in front of herself and Frank Bellamy.
Seven years after that incident, Maya has tried to start a new life. She has moved in with her boyfriend, Dan. She’s trying to kick a secret drug habit that started when they were originally prescribed for her after the incident in high school. Then Maya sees an online video of another girl sitting across a diner table from Frank. The girl dies on camera and Maya’s past hits her like a brick. With fuzzy memories of the events seven years ago, Maya is determined to discover the truth of what happened then and more recently.
Maya and Dan’s characters have depth. Maya is intelligent, loves poetry and reading, and likes a good buzz. However, she hasn’t been able to write after college. Is she delusional, is she in danger, or is it all a dream? Dan is kind, open and honest, loves books, is studying for law school exams, and is a procrastinator. The secondary characters of Maya’s mom, her friend, Aubrey, and Frank play pivotal roles in the story.
The premise for this book was good and the characterization and atmosphere were great, I felt the story could have taken place anywhere, not Boston, Amherst, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Additionally, the story felt disjointed. The story goes back and forth in time and this disrupted the flow and adversely affected the pace. Despite this, it’s a good novel with some important themes including addiction, communication, honesty, trust, and manipulation. I also learned something about Guatemala and its history of internal conflict. The way this information played into the story line was unique.
I definitely wanted to know what really happened to the two young women that died. Were their deaths natural? While the ending tied up most threads, there were still a couple left up in the air. I wanted more closure and less of an abrupt ending. However, the ending plot twist was unique and intriguing. The last 25 percent kept me turning the pages rapidly.
Overall, this psychological thrill felt menacing and chilling at times. It also had suspense, interesting characters, and a thought-provoking story line. If you enjoy psychological thrillers with an unreliable narrator, then this may be the book for you.
PENGUIN GROUP Dutton and Ana Reyes provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. Publication date is currently set for January 03, 2023.