Title and Link: The Wounds in the Walls
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Buy Link: Wounds in the Walls
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, M/M/M
Length: Novella (80 pdf pages)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A spooky ghost story that is a good remedy for all of the sweet holiday stories we’ve been reading.
Pete Eason’s been hit by the downturn in the economy just like everyone else, so when he gets the word that some guy named Mike Clarke needs a day laborer to clear our a rural Missouri house, he doesn’t ask too many questions before he takes the job. But Pete quickly learns that there’s something funny going on at this site. For one, Pete’s the only laborer Mike hired, and from what Pete can see, this place needs a bulldozer, not a Dumpster. Mike doesn’t so much as hand Pete a shovel, either—he seems to be hinting that the place is haunted. Pete doesn’t feel any goose bumps, and he sure as hell doesn’t see any ghosts. He’s dying, though, to know what all the gashes in the walls are about.
Mike can’t see the gashes, and he’s frustrated that Pete can’t see the ghost standing right beside him, because the whole point of bringing Pete here was to release the trapped spirit in this place, a spirit that by rights Pete should be able to see better than anyone. Maybe, Mike thinks, he’s made a mistake. But before he can nudge Pete a little harder, the front door disappears, the walls begin to heave, and the ghost which has always been nothing more than a shade is suddenly aggressive flesh and blood—and Mike doesn’t think he’s made a mistake anymore. He knows he has.
Pete is broke and he’ll take any job that comes his way. So when a man shows up to hire him as a day laborer, he jumps at the chance to make some money. He starts to suspect that this isn’t any normal job when the man who contracted him comes to pick him up in a Lexus to drive him 30 miles of torn up roads to the work site. Pete figures that any guy who has enough money to drive a fancy car down these roads probably won’t have much in common with him. Mike, the man who hired him, is surprisingly chatty about all sorts of strange things druing their drive — Where is Pete from? Has he ever heard of the house they’re going to work on? It seems fishy to Pete, but he knows not to get too chummy with the boss, so he politely answers all of the questions, even when he’s curious why they’re being asked in the first place. He’s even more taken aback when they arrive at an old run-down antebellum estate and Mike tells him that he’s the only laborer he’s hired, and instead of setting him to work, leads him on a tour of the house asking him all sorts of questions about the things they see right in front of them. Is there furniture in this room? What is the color of the wallpaper? Pete knows now that Mike brought him here under false pretenses, but before he gets the hell out he wants to know what is going on and why, throughout the house, there are horrible gashes in the walls.
Mike has no idea what Pete is talking about. He can’t see any gashes in the walls. He brought Pete here to see the ghost — the ghost who calls himself Ara and is standing right next to Pete smirking. It seems that both Mike and Ara have an agenda. Mike is a paranormal psychologist and is trying to release this ghost’s energy, but why can’t Pete see the ghost? He was sure that Pete would see the ghost and know what to do with it. He only found Pete because the psychic he hired told him to — that Pete was the one with the key. Yet, for the first time since he came in contact with Ara, the ghost seems nervous and afraid. Then, as Ara tries to act cooly unnaffected, as Pete tries to get the hell out and away from his weird new employer, and as Mike tries to figure out what the hell went wrong with his plan — the house wakes up.
I’ve read a few of Heidi Cullinan’s past works and found that I had a difficult time with them. On the one hand, she is incredibly creative, her stories never go in the direction I expect and they always veer away from convention. On the other hand, I sometimes wish that the narrative would slow down a little. Some things seem to happen so fast with very little breathing room inbetween. I found both of these to be present here in my reading. I loved the story — it was fascinating — but it was also a large amount of plot to tell in 80 pages. Once the action started about 20% of the way through it never stopped. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me too much. However, the main problem that I had with The Wounds in the Walls was the lack of suspense. Horror, or even a paranormal story that is slightly scary, is almost completely based on the fine line between stillness and action. Treading this line well usually lends to a scary story. Yet, there really were no pauses in the story, which made this more of a paranormal story to me.
It wasn’t only the lack of suspense that I felt was a victim to the short length of this story. It felt a bit like the story was rushed and not only did we not have time to get to know the characters well, but I was confused for a lot of the story. There is a fair amount of head jumping here because two of the characters have flashbacks of past lives but with the same names. It ended up being difficult to keep them all apart when not only were they hard to keep track of, but the scenes flashed back and forth from present to past to present really fast. There is one M/M/M sex scene here, taking place with Mike and Pete and Ara. I have to tell you, that I was pretty creeped out by the sex-with-a-ghost thing. I suppose it could be pretty hot, depending on how its written, but here it sort of felt like they were all in a fog and didn’t know what they were doing. They also kept saying things like “Feed me your giant cock!,” which, instead of feeling sexy, ended up making me laugh. I might be one of a kind here, finding things funny where most would not, but it is a particular pet peeve of mine when guys say outrageous porn phrases as a come on.
I hate to harp on about the things in this book that bothered me, because there was a lot that I loved. Heidi Cullinan is an amazing writer and her stories are always captivating. But, these problems affected how I read the book, and ultimately my enjoyment of it. If she had written double the amount of this story and given it a little time here and there to simmer, I think that I would have been compeletely carried along with the story. Because ultimately? It is a fantastic story, I just had a hard time figuring out what was going on. Recommended for fans of Heidi Cullinan or fans of paranormal or horror.