The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
When offered to buy a house for 1 Euro JUST SAY NO!!!!!
Since appearing on the scene in the mid-nineties, Christopher Golden has been incredibly prolific with a wide range of fiction that confidently crosses genres. Although I have read a relatively small selection of these, I was a fan of his Ben Walker trilogy, in particular, Ararat (2017) and Red Hands (2020) and also thoroughly enjoyed the relatively recent Road of Bones (2022). If you have never read Golden, all the aforementioned titles are terrific places to start in regard to his horror fiction output, with his most recently published All Hallows being another absolute belter which had me on the hook from page one to the last.
Or if you fancy diving into something brand new, then The House of Last Resort keeps Golden’s fine run of quality supernatural fiction burning brightly. In this most recent outing, the action takes place in the small and scenic fictional Sicilian town of Beccina. I lived in Italy for over three years in the nineties, visiting Sicily on two occasions and felt Golden gave a decent account of foreigners struggling to settle in Italy. This is more of an observation than a criticism, considering the American couple had very limited spoken Italian, way more people were able to speak English than in reality. This is a country that dubs absolutely everything on television and cinema, although it may have changed more recently due to the accessibility of streaming in English. Personally, I will never forget the nightmare of trying to pay a telephone or gas bill and dreading being asked a question from the cashier!
That aside, Golden nicely recreates the lifestyle, atmosphere, café culture, and mood of a small-town where everybody knows their neighbour’s business, going back several generations. The backdrop to the story was both clever and plausible; Beccina is one of many half-empty towns, nearly abandoned by those who migrate from the coastal areas to the cities for employment. To combat this, its mayor has taken drastic measures to rebuild, selling abandoned homes to anyone in the world for a single Euro as long as the buyer guarantees to live there for at least five years. Not blessed with a natural tourist industry, the town is desperate to survive by any means necessary.
This opportunity is perfect for the main characters, Tommy and Kate Puglisi, who can both work remotely, whilst he can live close to his elderly grandparents, his closest living relatives. Tommy speaks limited Italian as his father abandoned the country many years earlier (with good reason, as is later revealed), and Kate speaks virtually none. The young couple see this move to Sicily as an adventure and an opportunity to escape the American rat-race and develop a large property for a fraction of what it would cost in America and dream of raising a family in this idyllic location.
The first half of The House of Last Resort is very slow, and nothing supernatural happens beyond Golden, building tension and atmosphere, particularly when their elderly grandmother reacts badly to the couple buying a different house than initially agreed. It is clear the house has some sort of history, but nobody will tell Tommy and Kate much, and soon they will hook up with a few other outsiders. However, things take a nasty turn when Tommy’s grandfather has a very bad stroke, and the escalation of odd stuff and an unsettled feeling in the house escalates nicely.
It is worth being very patient with The House of Last Resort, as the second half was seriously cool cracker-jack stuff. When the story moves beyond your standard haunted house melodrama with doors creaking and slamming it shifts through the gears at great speed when the couple discover secret rooms and are shocked when they discover their original purpose. The anxiety felt by Tommy and Kate is made doubly worse by the fact that they truly are strangers in a country which has ancient superstitions they do not understand or believe until they are forced into a terrifying corner, which is where the book comes into its own grabbing the reader by the throat.
Hold onto your hat for an outstanding ending, and if you do not like rats, I would recommend treading very carefully with this novel. Christopher Golden has become one of the most reliable names in horror fiction and The House of Last Resort is another winner, which continues his recent great run of form.
The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
The next high concept horror novel from New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden.
Across Italy there are many half-empty towns, nearly abandoned by those who migrate to the coast or to cities. The beautiful, crumbling hilltop town of Becchina is among them, but its mayor has taken drastic measures to rebuild–selling abandoned homes to anyone in the world for a single Euro, as long as the buyer promises to live there for at least five years.
It’s a no-brainer for American couple Tommy and Kate Puglisi. Both work remotely, and Becchina is the home of Tommy’s grandparents, his closest living relatives. It feels like a romantic adventure, an opportunity the young couple would be crazy not to seize. But from the moment they move in, they both feel a shadow has fallen on them. Tommy’s grandmother is furious, even a little frightened, when she realizes which house they’ve bought.
There are rooms in an annex at the back of the house that they didn’t know were there. The place makes strange noises at night, locked doors are suddenly open, and when they go to a family gathering, they’re certain people are whispering about them, and about their house, which one neighbor refers to as The House of Last Resort. Soon, they learn that the home was owned for generations by the Church, but the real secret, and the true dread, is unlocked when they finally learn what the priests were doing in this house for all those long years…and how many people died in the strange chapel inside. While down in the catacombs beneath Becchina…something stirs.