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New York Times Book Review—The Suicide House

By Marilyn Stasio

Nov. 6, 2020

What’s Scarier, an Abandoned Boardinghouse or a Creepy Porcelain Doll?

Dolls are creepy, an irrefutable fact of which Rory Moore, a forensic crime reconstructionist and the protagonist of Charlie Donlea’s strange mystery THE SUICIDE HOUSE (Kensington, 356 pp., $26), seems unaware. In fact, she has even made a hobby of collecting and repairing damaged antique porcelain dolls. Given her tolerance for eerie things, it’s no wonder Rory is drawn to an abandoned boardinghouse where two students at Westmont Prep were murdered, which has since become the preferred spot for teenagers playing “a dark and dangerous game” with death.

No surprise, this spooky house in Peppermill, Ind., becomes a media star, thanks to Mack Carter, a popular blogger who featured it on his podcast, “Events.” But to Rory, this is no atmospheric haunted house where prep school seniors initiate juniors into their secret society rituals for raising holy hell. It’s a crime scene where the souls of the dead remain trapped until she can “lead them to a proper place of rest where peace and calm would be found.”

That’s nice, but a multiple murder scene is no place for peace and calm, and Donlea obliges more perverse tastes with more killing, more mystery and more sleuths — too many, in fact. A criminal profiler named Lane Phillips gets a pass because (a) a good mystery can always use a criminal profiler, and (b) he’s Rory’s love interest. But Ryder Hillier, a reporter at The Indianapolis Star, is a sleuth too far, as are the exceedingly dull professional detectives on the case.

Of them all, only Rory maintains a firm grip on our interest, mainly because “the mysterious and unexplained intrigued her” as much as it does us. And let’s not forget that she speaks to those terrifying dolls.


The Suicide House

A Gripping and Brilliant Novel of Suspense

(A Rory Moore/Lane Phillips Novel) By Charlie Donlea

US, AU, and BR editions - Available Now. Buy the Book

  • An Apple Books Best of the Month Selection

  • A Publishers Weekly Summer Reads 2020 Editors’ Pick

  • A Library Journal “12 Novels Featuring Protagonists on the Autism Spectrum” Selection

From #1 International Bestseller Charlie Donlea—A chilling murder in a prestigious prep school is at the heart of this riveting new suspense novel that’s perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware. Forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips, must chase down the truth behind the ghastly killings featured on the hit true crime podcast sweeping the nation. Can they uncover the hidden secrets of the school and the psychology of a killer before the next episode airs?

Inside the walls of Indiana’s elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont’s students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don’t let your candle go out—unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house—to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn’t ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win—or to survive. . . .

“Multiple intertwining story lines keep the pacing brisk and the tension high throughout. But the book’s real strength is the idiosyncratic Rory, who suffers from OCD and is on the autism spectrum, a deeply developed character readers can’t help rooting for. Hopefully, she’ll be back soon.” —Publisher’s Weekly


About Charlie Donlea

Charlie Donlea is the USA Today and International bestselling author of Summit Lake, The Girl Who Was Taken and Don't Believe It. His latest novel, Some Choose Darkness is available now in paperback format.

His fifth novel, THE SUICIDE HOUSE, was released on July 28, 2020, and available now.

His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages across twenty countries. He resides in Chicago with his wife and two children.


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