Catherine Cavendish put herself on radar with Linden Manor and then followed that up with Dark Avenging Angel and The Pendle Curse to prove that she is a gothic horror writer that is worth keeping an eye on. I was happy to have an advance copy of The Devil’s Serenade hoping to find another gothic scare the equal of her previous books.
Maddie had fond memories of the time she had spent with her aunt in the summers while her parents traveled the world. She remembered the ancient house as a place in which she was free of parental control and could let her imagination wander. The house had always been a dark place even though it held a bright spot in her heart. When her aunt passed away and left the estate to her, Maddie moved to the new home hoping to catch some of the magic that she remembered from her childhood. Unfortunately, Maddie did not remember the summer of her sixteenth birthday and the ominous events of that year or she may have never wanted to come near the house again.
The local citizens of the small town had always talked in whispers about Hargest House. There were rumors of demons and hauntings and satanic rituals that had kept the residents of Hargest House from ever being accepted in the town. Maddie had never put much stock in these rumors and tried to explain the strange sounds and even voices that she heard in the house in a logical manner. There was also the matter of the tree roots that seemed to form a strong bond with the foundation of the house. As the stakes get deadlier and the apparitions begin to become more prominent, Maddie is finally forced to face the past and uncover the evil that dwells deep in the darkness of the house and the events of that forgotten summer that has once more come back to haunt her.
The Devil’s Serenade gets off to a slow start and Cavendish takes her time setting up the story. She starts off by putting Maddie in the Hargest house and then allows her to slowly uncover the mystery of the house over the first half of the book. While this is well written and there is a plenty of intrigue, but it does move a little slow at the outset and I did find my attention wandering at times. The events in the house were few and far between and Maddie never really seems to put the pieces together and neither can the reader. Cavendish gives small clues but not enough to piece things together as the story meanders toward the darkness in its first half.
Cavendish makes up for the slow beginning once the story kicked into gear. It is almost as if she realized that the book was just kind of wandering along and decided to provide a deus ex machina in the form of a found journal. This gives the clues to the mystery that Maddie needs and kicks off a frantic ending to the novel. Cavendish shines in the second half of The Devil’s Serenade and more than makes up for the novel’s slow beginning. I do think that the story would have worked better as a novella but it still serves as a good novel that is well worth reading. Fans of gothic horror are sure to eat this book up.
I would like to thank Samhain Publishing and NetGalley for this advance review copy. The Devil’s Serenade is scheduled to be released in April.