House of Echoes is plagued with problems, from a clichéd plot ripped from X-Files episodes, to an entire lack of action/plot development to a complete and total non-suspension of disbelief. Couple all of these problems with some rich whiney city people who move to a not-rural Eastern town? (C’mon New York; move to Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, etc., the middle of these states, and then you can start complaining about rural life). It’s a recipe for a boring waste of time.
Let’s start off with the two most glaring issues that everyone can agree make this novel not worth reading. First: nothing happens. Then some more nothing happens. Whine, money, talk, whine, money! talk. Maybe a tad bit of boring back story. Whine. Money. Whine! This sums up the first two-thirds of the book.
As I recount from my experience:
“At page 144, I thought something happened. I was wrong. At 186, still nothing.”
“Something actually happens around 247. 247 to 384. That’s all there is to the book. The rest is filler.”
Second, the plot is literally taken from one, two, maybe even 10 episodes of the X-Files. Suspicious villagers! Evil villagers! Your children! I’m not going to give it away, but you can see it coming from the beginning. So much foreshadowing I wasn’t even sure why I needed to keep reading. But I did. Alas.
Third, let’s deal with the suspension of disbelief aspect. I’m a science fiction reader/fan, as well as a fantasy reader/fan. I suspend my disbelief lots and lots and lots. I should have no problems doing it, in a coherent and even mildly thought-out world and plot.
House of Echoes is far from any of those things. Family living in New York, New York sells the tiny apartment, uses their savings and buys a mansion. Or maybe that’s an understatement. This thing they buy had 60 rooms.
And they’re going to fix it up. 60 rooms!
“Ben had seen castles a third its size. And while the scale of the place was imposing, its opulence was tempered by its condition.”
Even if these people (he’s a two-or-three-time published author and she was a banker) earned some good money in the big city and they bought this place (not on the market for very long) for a song, my disbelief is still broken from the working-over that gave it.
And they want to renovate it. And this isn’t a spoiler: they do renovate it and they even furnish it. Thank about that. Furnishings, even partial, for a 60-room hotel.
You’ve got to be pulling my leg. Oh wait! Brendan Duffy isn’t. It’s just a terribly plotted novel.
Unless these people secretly inherited a fortune in the tens-of-millions I don’t know about, I don’t believe it for a second.
Oh yea: they both drive hybrid Ford Escapes. Yea. And they have money to spare. (Give me a break.)
So then, Duffy harps on this idea that this town, probably 5-10 miles away from the next (a maximum of 20) is rural and isolated. This is in New York.
“The chief or Armfield might throw the boys a twenty or two at the end of the day, but the cleanup crews practically worked for free. Ben had heard his share of clichés about rural living, and everyone one of them had rung in his head in the months he’d spent here, but there was something about watching a small, isolated community like Swannhaven pitch together in a crisis that made him feel as if this was how things were meant to be.”
Besides the fact that the writing could use some cleaning up, again, really? Isolated? You’ve seriously got to be kidding me. Then again, maybe Duffy has never left the northeast. I used to live in Elko, Nevada. Two hours (at 80+ mph) from Twin Falls, Idaho. Five hours from Reno, Nevada and four hours from Salt Lake City, Utah.
That was isolated, as is Winnemucca, or any number of small towns in the western United States. 150-500 miles away is isolated. Ten miles is a damn swan song, although probably not a haven. So no, I don’t believe the premise, I don’t believe what goes on. I don’t believe a single word Duffy rights because it’s so ridiculous.
As I wrote above, nothing ever happens and when the ending finally does come, one saw it leaps, bounds, miles away. Probably many more miles away than this “rural” and “isolated” town is from its neighboring towns, the big cities and even New York itself.
Stay away from a sloppily plotted and boring novel.
This book was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.