After Sarah Langan’s most excellent novels The Keeper and The Missing, I was very much hoping to hit the proverbial third-time charm with her new horror novel, Audrey’s Door. Survey says? She didn’t hit it quite out of the park like she did with the first two; Audrey’s Door has some issues, but it’s still a good solid read.
Audrey Lucas is a woman with a whole hell of a lot of neuroses on her plate: she’s escaped a destructive relationship with her psychotic mother and more or less established a life for herself in New York, even to the point of being engaged to be married, but her victory hasn’t come without cost. She’s got OCD, enough that it’s driven a wedge between her and her fiance Saraub, and when the book opens she’s elected to move out of the apartment she shares with him–and into an old house called the Breviary, infamous for its Chaotic Naturalist architecture. The fact that a gruesome murder occurred in the space she renting almost puts her off. But as this is a horror novel, “almost” is as far as she gets.
The Breviary is of course haunted like you would not believe, and soon enough the place begins exerting its influence. Something in it is very aware of Audrey, and it insists that she build it a door of mysterious purpose. Nor is it above driving her mad to get her to do it, and threatening the tenuous life she’s established for herself.
There’s decent creepiness in this book; the residents of the Breviary, ancient husks of men and women who have long been warped by their residence in the place, are truly unnerving. But a whole lot of the book’s early mileage is spent on developing the backstory for Audrey, her traumatic childhood with her mother, and her not-terribly-healthy relationship with Saraub. A good stretch of that I found to just be depressing rather than creepy, because of the seemingly unending litany of ways in which poor Audrey’s life and mind were screwed up.
Not until the last act of the book does Saraub rise above his unsympathetic portrayal, and unfortunately, Audrey never quite manages to pull off the same ascent. The ending therefore felt strangely tacked on to me. Overall, three stars.