HOUSE INFERNAL takes its readers to hell with the first page, to the Boniface district to be exact. Anti-pope Boniface is introduced as the primary antagonist along with his legions of demonic wizards, demonic whores, and various other nasties. It is hinted at in the prologue that Boniface and his wizard are about to bring some diabolical plan to conclusion called the Involution.
Next, we’re introduced to Venetia Barlow. Venetia is a beautiful young woman contemplating becoming a nun. She is on her way to St. John’s Prior house in New Hampshire to assist in renovating the old building for college credits.
Venetia and her parents—Richard and Maxine, who are driving Venetia to the prior house—stop off at a convenience store. When Venetia collapses in the bathroom because of an excruciating voice pounding inside her head, claiming to originate from hell, she begins to question her sanity and health in general.
This leads the reader to, in my opinion, the most interesting character in the book, Ruth.
Ruth awakes to find herself in a boat with two hideous corpses of strange creatures and she has no idea what they are. Even more disturbing is the sea of blood carrying the boat. Lee trumps that with Ruth’s discovery of Alexander floating helplessly on the sea of blood. Alexander is a Roman Catholic Priest with no legs or arms. I found the thought of a living torso bobbing along in the ocean like a fishing bobber particularly disturbing.
Ruth pulls the torso onto the boat and it is revealed that Ruth is in hell. Condemned for her lifestyle of drugs, prostitution, and theft, Ruth is offered a chance at redemption. If she assists Alexander on a mysterious mission from upon high, her sentence in hell will be commuted to only a thousand years, at which point she’ll move on to Purgatory—apparently a neighborhood a few classes better than hell.
Lee leads us from there to the introduction of Detective Berns. Berns is in Maine interviewing a suspect in the murders of two nuns the previous year. The nuns were serving at St. John’s Prior house.
Berns’ suspect seems too willing to cooperate with a confession to expedite his sentence to death row. Berns speculates that the alleged perpetrator is involved with some sort of satanic cult, but doesn’t take the suspicion too seriously. His opinion of that will change.
HOUSE INFERNAL is a twisting, winding maze of terror extending from the living world to hell and back again. Lee’s vision of hell is both appalling and interesting. Hellish towns such as Rot Port, a coastal city in hell made up completely of rot, and Sewageton, a town made up of… well, use your imagination, give HOUSE INFERNAL its share of the gross out factor. But the character of Vulgaressa, ruler of Rot Port, was by far the worst; a nymphomaniac demon whose purpose was to have sex 66 times a day in an effort to contract and spread every known STD. Her skin is transparent, allowing others to see her insides, which was nothing more than infectious pus.
If I have a knock against HOUSE INFERNAL, it is the excessive number of typos. The editors at Dorchester dropped the ball on this one.
Edward Lee delivers a hardcore horror novel. He doesn’t know the meaning of pulling punches, a trait I greatly admire. I highly recommend HOUSE INFERNAL.
By Edward Lee
2007 Dorchester Publishing Company