Written by Mikita Brottman
Published by Ravenous Shadows
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a novel’s setting as much as the backdrop of Mikita Brottman’s House of Quiet Madness. The subdued Windfall Lodge is an isolated refuge for psychologically troubled women where they can reacquaint themselves with society far away from the pressures of friends and family. The rub? You’re out of there in twelve months – cured or not.
Much of the story centers on Ruth, a middle-aged woman whose depression bottoms out when her youngest daughter flies the coop. She’s encouraged by her husband to check into Windfall Lodge for a year’s worth of recuperation, and for a while things seem to be going well. But the Windfall isn’t your ordinary place; some of the patients are, let’s just say, less adjusted than others while others disappear in the night without a trace. Contact with family is severely limited, and the staff members treat their patients with a subtle hostility. Naturally, Ruth begins to suspect all isn’t right with the Windfall Lodge, and her search for the truth leads to a truly creepy discovery.
Mikita Brottman is a relatively new genre author, but her work in House of Quiet Madness is as assured as any. Not since Bentley Little have I encountered fiction with the ability to raise hackles with the simplest of scenarios/dialogues. In fact, she knows how to build up a steadily creepy atmosphere with the Windfall Lodge, crafting one of the spookiest horror destinations in recent memory. It works because Brottman builds toward the insidious without rushing it. The reader is lured into the story through a good old-fashioned slow-burn, ensuring the mysterious happenings wash over them.
Psychology is a strong part of the narrative (unsurprising, considering the author is a certified psychoanalyst), and watching the mystery of Windfall Lodge take its toll on our characters is among the novel’s strengths. One of the biggest criticisms often leveled at this kind of story is how the characters might react in horrific situations. But House of Quiet Madness feels much more organic in this department – offering realistic characters who behave as they actually should, as opposed to momentary lapses in logic designed to move the story forward.
This piece is much more of a throwback to classic, atmospheric horror. It’s not terribly violent or exploitative, but it will provide the reader with a solid chill. This is the third Ravenous Shadows books I’ve covered (with a fourth to be reviewed later this week), and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the whole line. House of Quiet Madness is indeed quiet, piercing horror that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
4 out of 5