There were times in each day when Ben believed a happier life waited only for them to claim it. He was a dreamer by trade, and it didn’t seem far-fetched to hope their troubles would depart as quickly as they had surfaced. Such optimism was purest in the clear mornings when he took Hudson on the day’s first walk.
Spring had come late but suddenly. The last of the snow had melted only weeks ago; now the grass was nearly to Ben’s waist. He monitored Hudson’s progress through the fields by reading the furrow carved by the beagle’s passage.
The dew had evaporated but its chill lingered, and the breeze carried its own bite. The wind was strong and invigorating on this part of the Drop—the plateau that sat in the lap of two mountains, hulking cousins of the Adirondack Range. The updraft from the valley sent the acreage undulating as if it were a single breathing thing.
He put his hand to his eyes to shield them against a gust and did his best to keep track of the dog. Hudson had picked up the scent of something and filled the air with his ecstatic baying. No one was happier about the Tierneys’ new life in the mountains than the beagle. His previous circumstances having amounted to little more than a Manhattan apartment, Hudson hardly knew what to do with a thousand acres of field, forest, and lake. If he missed his dog-walk runs and leashed jaunts down the avenues, he hid it well.
Ben smiled and dropped his hand to his pocket, searching for his phone before remembering that he’d left it back at the Crofts, their home on the Drop. He hardly carried it around anymore, but like a phantom limb he sometimes imagined its presence.
He watched the dog dart from the field and across the gravel drive that connected the Crofts with the county road nearly a mile away. The husk of a shattered outbuilding was just a hundred yards off the drive, on the near side of another copse of trees, and the beagle made straight for it.
Ben cupped his hands around his mouth and called Hudson’s name. Ruined structures of uncertain purpose were scattered across the Drop, but Ben had picked his way through this particular one not long after he and Caroline had closed on the property. The place was a mess. The roof had caved in, and the rotting floor was on the brink of collapse under the weight of rusting farming equipment and other scrap. Anyone could see it was a death trap.
He called Hudson again, but he was too far away; Ben could feel his shout whipped back to him by the steady wind from the valley.
Clearing these outbuildings was something Ben had wanted taken care of before they moved in, but that was a battle he’d lost. Caroline thought that they contributed to the ambience. She imagined the guests at their inn roaming the grounds, delighting in the discovery of some ancient building from a forgotten time. She said this would give their guests a sense of ownership over their stays at the Crofts, so that the Tierneys’ inn would become a place they’d return to year after year.
Their son, Charlie, was forbidden from venturing anywhere near the ruined buildings, but even an eight-year-old was easier to control than a beagle that had just plucked a tantalizing smell from the air.
Ben broke into a run when he cleared the tall grass. He’d lost sight of Hudson, but a mournful howl told him the dog was close by.
The wind backed off as Ben ran across the gravel drive, and he didn’t need to be a dog to pick out the scent that had captured Hudson’s attention. It was a musky smell with metallic notes, the tang of an animal, a tease of death that hadn’t yet turned sweet.
Ben reached the building and was greeted by Hudson, eyes big and beseeching, tongue wagging.
“In trouble again,” Ben said.
He crouched to give Hudson a rough rub around his neck, and the beagle’s panting slowed.
“You stink, too.” His hands came away from the dog, smeared red. He resisted the impulse to wipe them on his jeans.
Hudson gave a short bark and executed a small circle in front of Ben.
“All right, show me,” Ben told him, and followed the dog around the shattered building.
He wasn’t surprised by the death; he had guessed as much from the smell. It was the blood that caught him short.
The animal looked as if it had burst. The creature’s entrails were spread over several yards in two perpendicular streaks of intersecting gore.
“No, Hudson,” Ben said, as the dog started sniffing the mess.
The smell was stronger here, but not as bad as Ben had expected. The pools of blood were liquid, rippling in the breeze. The absence of birds and other scavengers made Ben think this hadn’t been here long. A fresh kill.
His eyes scanned the ruined canvas of the animal and settled on a pair of prim gray hooves. A deer, Ben thought with some relief. The anonymous quality of the shredded viscera had made his imagination spin.
The beagle walked through the carnage and began nosing around the edge of the woods.
“Might have been a bear,” Ben told Hudson.
He’d heard coyotes at night, but the men in town told him there were black bears in the woods. They’d also told him that there were wolves and mountain lions up here on the Drop, but he’d actually seen the bear tracks for himself along the edge of the lake.
“Come on,” he said.
Hudson started to bark at the trees.
“We’ll have to hose you down before you go inside.”
Ben headed back toward the gravel drive, hoping the dog would follow. But Hudson wouldn’t stop growling at the forest. Ben squinted to see what might have caught the beagle’s attention. He was a good dog and rarely fussed without a reason.
“Let’s go, Hud.” Ben turned away from the woods and took some of yesterday’s bacon out of a plastic bag he kept in his pocket. “Look what I’ve got for you.”
Hudson veered around and licked the bacon fragments from Ben’s hand.
“Come on, you smelly dog,” he said, rubbing Hudson on the side of one ear. He took off in a jog back to the Crofts, and the beagle trotted after him.
A great elm stood a solitary watch on the lip of the Drop, and when Ben reached its shadow he glanced back at the woods by the ruined building. All he saw were trees rocking gently in the updraft from the valley.
The Crofts was a monster.
The lawyer who’d handled the sale told Ben it had been the original home of the Swann family, the first colonists to settle the Drop. It had begun as a simple residence, but he said they’d added to it over the years. Then again, that had been obvious.
Rising to four floors, the house had sixty-five rooms, five entryways, and four staircases. Though sections of the building had been constructed centuries apart, its exterior was wrapped in uniform walls of gray granite. It sat like a castle on the lip of the Drop, overlooking the village of Swannhaven and the rest of the valley.
It had been a farming estate and was ancient by the metric of the New World, built back when agriculture was the only game in the rambling North Country. It hadn’t been a fully operational farm since the 1940s, but the outlines of the old fields remained, as did the bones of stone walls and survivor strains of wheat, rye, and barley grown wild.
Ben had seen castles a third its size. And while the scale of the place was imposing, its opulence was tempered by its condition. Parts of the residence hadn’t been inhabited in decades, its last owners spinster sisters who’d lived their entire lives within these walls. Ben didn’t know what two old women were doing so far from the village in such a huge house, but he could see it hadn’t involved much in the way of home maintenance. Water stains marked the ceilings, warped planks buckled the floors, and windows rattled in their frames.
Sometimes he looked at the Crofts and saw a sprawling monument to impetuous decision-making. But in moments of hope, Ben saw an ember waiting to be rekindled. They were ready to put their sweat into the place; he hoped only that the Crofts would accept it.
“Windy out there,” he told Charlie when he opened the side door and stepped into the kitchen. He made right for the sink, giving the soap dispenser a double pump before nudging the handle to hot.
From their first tour of the place, Caroline had been convinced they could renovate the entire estate by themselves. Ben had his doubts. He had insisted that contractors add air-conditioning, install bathrooms in the guest rooms, and upgrade the plumbing and electrical. He could take his chances sanding floors and painting walls, but he thought anything involving pipes, wires, or gas lines was worth paying for. It had taken a team of live-in workers some months to get the house into shape before the Tierneys moved in.
Though budget-conscious, Caroline had taken up cooking again and spared no expense in updating the kitchen in a modern French country style. Two walls of custom-made cabinets flanked a professional Wolf range with two large ovens. The original floor had been ripped up in favor of wide-plank antique walnut. Gray granite counters gleamed under inset lighting.
When they weren’t working to renovate the rest of the house, they spent most of their waking hours here. At first it had been only for meals, then Charlie had begun reading in one of the corners instead of in his own room, then Ben and Caroline had moved their laptops to a side table. Ben told Caroline it might have been withdrawal from their close city living that led them to cluster together in this small room, but the truth was that he felt like an intruder anywhere else in the vast place.
“Where’s Hudson?” Charlie asked through a full mouth. He and Bub were seated at the table, which held four plates of pancakes, each stacked six inches high.
“He made a mess of himself out there,” Ben told him. “I’ll clean him off after I eat.” He watched the last of the blood-tinged water swirl out of sight.
“Mom made pancakes,” Charlie said.
“I can see that.” Ben dried his hands and kissed Bub on the head. The baby gurgled and showed him the pancake he was playing with.
In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family’s dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare.
Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school.
When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over.
House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole.
Advance praise for House of Echoes
“[Brendan] Duffy walks a fine line between crime and horror, skillfully manipulating the threats of a punishing winter, creepy historic setting, and strange villagers. . . . This unsettling, atmospheric tale is right up the alley of those who enjoyed Jennifer McMahon’s Winter People; and the shared appeal with Stephen King’s The Shining is undeniable.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A fluid, suspenseful yet subtle thriller, with touches of humor, evocative writing, and characters that are both familiar and uniquely fascinating. A wonderfully tense and heart-wrenching debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“ House of Echoes is that rare debut that grabs the reader by the lapels with both hands and never lets go. It’s compelling, brooding, atmospheric, and propulsive—and it accomplishes something frightening and unique: a portrayal of the great outdoors as beautiful, amoral, and claustrophobic at the same time. It will stay with you long after you read the last page, and it may very well haunt your dreams.” —C. J. Box, New York Times bestselling author of Endangered
“ House of Echoes is dark, emotionally affecting and truly creepy. Brendan Duffy dives straight into the ugly core of small-town America and doesn’t flinch a bit—a fantastic story and a great book.” —Kelly Braffet, author of Save Yourself
“ House of Echoes is the captivating tale of a bruised family’s escape to their dream house in a bucolic small town, only to find themselves trapped by its dark legends. In this relentlessly chilling story, Brendan Duffy breathes new life into the gothic tradition. Uncanny and hypnotic, it will freeze your heart.” —Keith Donohue, New York Times bestselling author of The Boy Who Drew Monsters
“Brendan Duffy’s House of Echoes is one of those wonderful stories that come along only once in a while, a beautifully nuanced and riveting family drama set within a terrifying landscape that has you turning pages long past bedtime. But keep the light burning and read to the end. That’s when you realize you’ve been in the hands of a very clever storyteller, and that what you thought you’d been reading was all along something else.” —Carla Buckley, author of The Deepest Secret
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Description du livre Ballantine Books, 2015. Hardcover. État : New. book. N° de réf. du libraire 0804178119