Someone’s in the House
Samuel Bonner

Pen Press
Trade Paper, 330 pages, £7.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

Someone’s in the House is described on the book’s back cover as “a visceral, disturbing and genuinely horrific tale of witchcraft in a depraved corner of London.” This is mostly accurate. The novel is indeed profoundly unsettling and horrifying. And the seedy, eerie neighborhood in which much of the action takes place has “depraved” elements. But the witchcraft comment is rather misleading. The black arts play only a peripheral role in the story. It is stark raving madness that provides the horror. Author Samuel Bonner creates a highly memorable loony with a character known as Sonya the witch. She has no malign supernatural powers; but does a world of harm. Her warped psyche is scary as hell, which is fitting since Sonya has embraced the dark side with a demented vengeance. The only demons to be found in the narrative are demons of the mind, and Bonner does an excellent job conveying them.

Sonya’s primary victim is the yarn’s protagonist, Rita. Rita is a single young mother who flees from an abusive relationship with a drug addict. Subjected to assault and psychological debasement, she craves to regain her self-esteem. When she defies her odious partner, it’s a subdued form of fighting back: “She was treading on dangerous ground with heavy feet. She was fully aware that she could’ve ended the whole fiasco by giving him the satisfaction, by simply submitting to his wishes. It was easier to tell him what he wanted to hear, but in not doing so, she may have wounded a part of him, fractured that tiny shade of grey matter in his brain that was still human. After all, she couldn’t match his spite and hatred, so any chance she got to win a battle, she took. She needed to win something.”

A final straw prompts her flight, and Rita and four-year-old son Luke are left to fend for themselves. Reconnecting with a male chum from high school initially seems to be beneficial. He can provide her with lodging at an investment property owned by his parents. The residential area leaves much to be desired, but beggars can’t be choosers. Through Luke she forges a bond with another unwed mom. Both gals had the poor judgment to get impregnated by complete rotters. As mothers, though, the women display a doting, protective wisdom.

Maternal care can only go so far when dealing with a psychotic sadist. Rita and Luke go out of the frying pan and into the fire; escaping from the clutch’s of Luke’s drugs addled dad, then tortured by madwoman Sonya. Taking responsibility for the situation is Rita: “After all, it wasn’t fate that had brought them to Cotton Hill, it was her and her pathetic inability to steer them away from the horrors of life; horrors that she was partly responsible for.”

What happens to Rita is beyond any “horrors of life” she could have imagined before the move to Cotton Hill. The savagely violent sequences in the book are not for the faint of heart. It’s a relief when they end, but the denouement of the yarn could have been stronger. Perhaps after conveying all that terror, the author was a bit winded, himself.

Samuel Bonner is a Brit with grit, taking the reader to places that are sordid yet mesmerizing. Brimming with grim intensity, Someone’s in the House is unnerving entertainment.

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