- Audiobook Review
- Author: Robert Marasco
- Performed by RC Bray
- Category: Classic Horror
- Released: March 2016 by Blue Heron Audio
Ben and Marian Rolfe are desperate to escape a stifling summer in their tiny Brooklyn apartment, so when they get the chance to rent a mansion in upstate New York for the entire summer for only $900, it’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. There’s only one catch: behind a strange and intricately carved door in a distant wing of the house lives elderly Mrs. Allardyce, and the Rolfes will be responsible for preparing her meals.
Marian is desperate to spend the summer away from the city, with it’s oppressive heat, grime and noise. The advertisement in the paper for a ‘unique summer home. Restful, secluded. Perfect for large family. Pool, private beach, dock,’ sounds just what she’s looking for in a summer rental. Ben eventually gives in and agrees to view the property, but is very sceptical when he learns the price and sees the run down state of the place. But for Marian, it’s everything she ever wanted…and more.
The owners, Roz and Arnold, also known as Brother, Allardyce, are strange, to say the least, not to mention the creepy handyman/chauffeur. Ben is less than enthusiastic at the prospect of being responsible for the senior Mrs Allardyce, and who would leave their elderly mother in the care of strangers anyway? But he can see Marian has her heart set on it so they, along with their son, David, and Aunt Elizabeth, move into the house. It’s obvious all is not as it seems, there’s a weird and frightening feeling about the place which grows inexorably, and a nightmarish situation develops as the house begins to regenerate.
And maybe the old lady’s words, which seemed to be addressed directly to her, triggered it – the strange proprietary feeling that came over her again; the feeling that this house, which she had never seen before, was somehow reserved for her. It showed obviously; something a little deeper than blank awe, and less objective, had crept into her face, because Miss Allardyce looked straight at her and said, “I know, you’re thinking about what you could do with it, aren’t you?”
The book is new to me and I didn’t realise it was first released in the early 70’s, neither have I seen the 1970s film based on the book. It’s been given a new lease of life with kindle and paperback editions released last year and an audio version this year. The narrative is a little dated but taking into consideration the book is 40+ years old, it’s a really good ‘evil/haunted house’ story. The horror is of the Gothic type, stealthy and subtle, no blood or gore, building slowly, steadily and menacingly to the inevitable and dreadful climax.
The scene is set with the Rolfe’s uncomfortable living conditions in the city, and the family dynamics. Marian is manipulative, and petulant when she doesn’t get her own way, and seems to be motivated by the thought, and acquisition, of possessions which they can’t really afford. Ben mostly goes along with want she wants because he loves her. Occasionally, because of this, he comes across as weak but even so, I much preferred him to Marian. Aunt Elizabeth is a great character with lots of personality. The story is chilling, descriptive and atmospheric with a very enjoyable writing style.
Another great narration by RC Bray. He gives the characters distinct voices and emotions, adding to the overall mood and enjoyment of the story.
About Robert Marasco
Robert Marasco was born in the Bronx in 1936 and educated at Regis High School in Manhattan and Fordham University. A classical scholar, Marasco taught at Regis before turning to writing, with Child’s Play, an eerie melodrama about incidents of evil at a Catholic boys’ school. The play was a surprise success in 1970, running for 343 performances on Broadway and earning a Tony Award nomination for best play of the year, and was adapted for a 1972 film.
Marasco also wrote two novels: Burnt Offerings (1973) and Parlor Games (1979). Burnt Offerings was a bestseller and spawned a 1976 film adaptation directed by Dan Curtis and starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, and Bette Davis.
Marasco died of lung cancer in 1998.