The Wounds in the Walls

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Title and Link: The Wounds in the Walls
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Dreamspinner
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.

BLURB

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.

REVIEW

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.

11 thoughts on “The Wounds in the Walls

  1. Kassa

    Great review Cole and very insightful. I think you pegged this one perfectly. The author definitely packs so much in and the pauses are what’s really creepy! It’s always that moment of someone standing in the hall that you get the most scared. I also thought the sex scene was so unnecessary and silly. I kept rolling my eyes.

    Your review is pretty spot on and very intuitive. Thanks!

    1. Cole Post author

      Thank you Kassa! I was a bit worried to be honest because I know a lot of people love Heidi Cullinan…

      1. Kassa

        Oh I adore Heidi Cullinan’s work and she’s one of my go to authors. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a slam dunk. I enjoyed reading this for the most part but I think your review pointed out why some readers may not be satisfied. So it wins on both accounts. You certainly didn’t trash the book or author.

  2. Buda

    Great review, Cole. I have to admit, this one has been waiting patiently on (in?) my Kindle for months and I haven’t touched it yet. Heidi’s books are always so intense that I keep putting this one off for lighter fare. But I’m intrigued, definitely intrigued, by the whole concept, and your review has just renewed that interest. I’m going to schedule it for next week. Thanks,C!

  3. Tam

    Hmm. I’m not a horror fan but you had me a little iterested until I started to realize the m/m/m was with a ghost. Not my thing. Although the weirdest I read was a female ghost who posessed the body of one of the guys so that she could help him bottom for his BF for the first time. Ewwwww. I don’t know about other gay men, but it just seemed uber-creepy to me. LOL

    I don’t think this one is for me. Nice review.

    1. Cole

      …the weirdest I read was a female ghost who posessed the body of one of the guys so that she could help him bottom for his BF for the first time. Ewwwww.

      Thats so weird! I think the writer (like so many others do) was probably just trying to come up with some new combination of partners for sex. Its not like regular guy on guy sex gets boring… at least, not to me anyway :) But yeah, that’s creepy.

      Thanks Tam!

  4. Jb

    I enjoyed this one for the most part. It was different and the tragedy of what happened once the mystery unfolded made me feel for them. I didn’t really have any problems with the back/forth flashbacks. I do think the story could have done more if it had been longer in length, though. The ending was probably the part I liked least, as it didn’t make logical sense to me (don’t want to say more so as not to ruin for other commenters). Otherwise, though, it was enjoyable, and I like happy/hopeful endings. The m/m/m scene was a bit over the top, but I actually thought there was something else going on there for a moment (I thought the plot was going somewhere else – with the ghost ‘becoming flesh and whole’ like an energy stealing thing where the ‘real human’ life force is sucked out and into the ghost bringing it to life). *sheepish grin*

    1. Cole

      Hi Jb,

      I actually thought there was something else going on there for a moment (I thought the plot was going somewhere else – with the ghost ‘becoming flesh and whole’ like an energy stealing thing where the ‘real human’ life force is sucked out and into the ghost bringing it to life).

      I agree, thats why I didn’t really get the sex scene at all. It seemed exactly like you say, and on top of that, I kept getting confused on which Pete it was. If they had stuck to calling one Pete and the past Ara Peter, then I could have kept it separate in my mind…but they kept switching back and forth.

      I was a little sad that I didn’t like this story so much. The problem was that it had SO much potential for me. I love these kinds of stories. If it had been scarier, and if it had a more rigid framework set up in the beginning, setting the rules of what was to come so I wouldn’t be floundering about, I would have loved it. I guess she just needed more room to move. Its definitely a novel length story.

      Thanks Jb!

  5. Diane NYC

    I’m a huge paranormal fan and had this book on my Halloween to-read list but never got around to it (it was loong list!)

    Porn movie dialogue in a story is hit or miss with me. Sometimes I find it silly and endearing and other times it makes me cringe.

    I’ll take your advice and give this one a turn next month to cleanse my palate after all the sugary sweet holiday reads. Thanks for the review ! :)

  6. Cole

    Porn movie dialogue in a story is hit or miss with me. Sometimes I find it silly and endearing and other times it makes me cringe.

    For me, it all depends on what personalities the characters have. If there is an obvious reason that they’re speaking that way during sex it doesn’t bother me. If they’re earnestly trying to sound like a ho, lol, I don’t know… I guess it depends on whether I feel like the character would actually speak that way, which goes for all dialogue. It seemed out of place here.

    I hope you enjoy it! I think that a really diligent reader (I have to take notes because my ADHD brain jumps around so much) might not have the problems that I had here. If those things don’t bother you, you’ll love this. Let me know what you think, okay?

    Thanks Diane!

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