The Dwelling

by Susie Moloney
ISBN: 0679312161

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A Review of: The Dwelling
by Des McNally

Susie Moloney didn't choose an original premise for her third offering, The Dwelling. The author resurrects the "old haunted house" theme, but her approach is clever, and the star of her tale is a diverse cast of characters and not just the almost alive, brooding and disturbing house at 362 Belisle Street.
What connects the different parts of the novel is Glenn Darnley, a Real Estate Agent who is returning to work after the death of her husband. Like any good agent, Darnley first takes the reader on a showing of the house, pointing out its features with obvious affection-its working fireplace, the large English style back garden and the attic, perfect for an office. This walkthrough makes us familiar with the layout of the house. Despite the outward charm of the building, Darnley has no success moving the property, and through frequent showings becomes increasingly attached to it herself.
The eventual sale of the house to a young couple comes as a relief to Darnley, who is fatigued, has lost weight and believes she has an ulcer. The new owners, Rebecca and Daniel Mason, an ambitious, self-centred and obsessive wife and her artist husband, have, among other things, financial problems. He has lately become "an active participant in corporate restructuring", a euphemism for being laid off, and money is very short. Their fragile relationship is further challenged by the gradual introduction of eerie happenings in the building: music from another age mysteriously plays at night, a small yapping dog appears out of nowhere, footsteps are heard in the attic and the bath with its huge clawed feet, fills and empties on its own. It's no surprise therefore, that after some surprisingly erotic episodes involving Dan Mason, and a twist in the tale, the house is back on the market.
This time Darnley finds a buyer relatively quickly, a self-pitying, newly-divorced mother and her obese eight-year-old son Petey. Absolutely nothing is going right for this divorcee and worst of all her son is called names, abused and bullied in school. At home however, the apparitions, through a little girl called Mariette, have made themselves known to Petey. They take a different and positive approach to him and he finds enjoyment, acceptance and solace in their company. Moloney ends this episode of her novel in a strangely satisfying and moving manner.
Again Darnley must find a buyer for 362 Belisle and this time it's an emotionally immature, alcoholic writer. Richie Bramley is divorced and has recently experienced a shattering breakup with his long-time girlfriend. He has writers' block and only finds comfort in the bottle. During this portion of the novel, Bramley is the observer of bizarre occurrences (or could it be the booze?). He even has a conversation of sorts with his dead, alcoholic father as he swings on a rope from an oak beam. When this part of the story ends, Moloney presents us with an interesting turn in the plot that results in yet another occupant for the house.
The author, while creating a living, pulsing and macabre structure, also treats her human cast of characters with great care. Ordinary human beings with ordinary human frailties and problems are suddenly confronted with solutions from eerie, frightening sources, and it is their various responses which determine their futures.
This is a great psychological thriller written in good taste with a suitably imaginative conclusion.

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