Book Reviews

{Review} A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE, by Josh Malerman

Published by This Is Horror Format: Paperback

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home. 

3 stars.

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Horror After Dark Review

A HOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAKE, by Josh Malerman , is published by This Is Horror Publication. I need to start out by stating that I think this book was marketed in the wrong genre. Personally, I didn’t find anything in this “horrific”, so much as “fantasy”–perhaps bordering on “thriller” towards the end. 

That being said, this story is beautifully written, and the pangs of a “first-love” are quickly brought back to the reader as the story unfolds. The characters were endearing, and in another setting, I think I may have thought more of their relationship.

“For the first time in their lives, they were falling in love.” 

Unfortunately, I rarely appreciate romance in books, unless it comes in the midst of supernatural terror, or paranormal investigations. While their discovery was absolutely awe-inspiring and mysterious, I felt that a lot of potential to turn this into a true horror story was wasted as it left the discovery and used it as a background of sorts for their newfound love. Every time one of them thought about “love”, I couldn’t tell if they were in love with each other, or the house, itself. It was as though the two were really indistinguishable, with the mystery surrounding the house trumping any personal feelings towards the other. 

“. . . We could have shaped it into anything we wanted it to be.” 

The place seemed to have a deeper “attraction” for them, coming to each even in their dreams. This is why I felt that their “love” was more about their shared secret, than anything about the other. Also, there was very little stated of their personal lives aside from the internal thoughts that James has about his family’s business in the beginning.

“We found a dangerously magic place . . .” 

The other parts in the book, involving technical things such as scuba diving, etc., bothered me mainly because it just gave another sense of “impossibility” to the story. Scuba diving takes a while to learn–the idea that two teens just managed to pick it up in a few days so successfully kept mentally nagging at me as implausible. That, admittedly, took a lot of the focus off the tale, itself.

Overall, I think that the idea Malerman has here is spectacular, and I did enjoy the writing. A story like this could have benefited from more of a novel length, perhaps, and the mystery behind it could easily have been made into something more horrifying and sinister in its implications than it was. However, the ending was strong, and left me with the feeling that things were about to get out of control. I can honestly say that I would not classify this as horror–more teen romance/fantasy for the first 3/4 of the book. A great idea, that I hoped would have gone in a more “horrific” direction.

About The Author

About Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, whose song “The Luck You Got” can be heard as the theme song to the Showtime show “Shameless.” His book Bird Box is also currently being filmed as a feature film starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson. Bird Box was also nominated for the Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the James Herbert Award. His books Black Mad Wheel and Goblin have also been nominated for Stoker Awards.


I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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