Book Reviews

{Review} THE INVITED, by Jennifer McMahon

Published by Doubleday Format: eARC

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter Peoplereturns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

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Horror After Dark Review

2.5 Stars

THE INVITED is the latest novel I read by Jennifer McMahon. I have previously read several of her other novels and am generally impressed with her imagination, characters, and twisted endings. The premise of this novel was one I found intriguing. Instead of your normal, “move into a house only to find out later that it’s haunted” theme, our main couple is moving from the city with plans to build a classic “saltbox” style house of their own.

In essence, BUILD a house to be haunted.

“. . . What people don’t understand, they destroy.” 

Nate and Helen happen to buy a large property where a woman–once falsely accused of witchcraft–was dragged outside and hung from a tree in the surrounding bog. Her house was burnt to the ground, and her only child went into hiding far away.

This is where the story deviates from the “usual”.

“. . . What if objects didn’t just hold memories, but held traces of the people who’d touched them, threads that connected them still?” 

We’re introduced to several different sets of characters–each with issues and secrets of their own. With all of these people brought in, I found it difficult to connect with any of them, really, as most of their personal agendas seemed designed to be obvious red herrings.

“. . . it’s a dangerous game you’re playing. Blurring the lines between the past and present, the dead and the living.” 

The novel went back and forth from the present day, to various points in the past. These never bothered me, as they were clearly labeled chapters, and utilized to give a more in-depth description of some of the characters.

Most of Jennifer McMahon’s novels leave me guessing right up until the very end. Unfortunately, this time I thought I had figured out a couple of the main mysteries very early on, and was “hoping” for some twists to make me realize I’d been wrong.

However, the twists never came.

“. . . fury brought its own fire with it, tinting the world around you . . . “ 

Overall, I still love McMahon’s writing style, but this book just fell flat for me. The few characters I did enjoy enough to keep reading about had some interesting parts to their backstories. Regrettably, since there were scarcely any characters that fell into that category for me, it made the more “subtle” clues feel all too obvious, in my opinion. While I was mildly curious about the situation, I never once felt that I was reading a “Horror” novel with this book, as it lacked any real scare factor. In the end, I feel that this is why I was ultimately disappointed–I had figured out the ending very early on in the story, and nothing about it seemed “horrific” to me. There is no question of McMahon’s ability to write, just frustration that I was able to guess at the answers so easily, and did not feel like I was reading her usual genre.

About The Author

I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we’re living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure.


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

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