Cover Image: Beneath the Stairs

Beneath the Stairs

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Member Reviews

I thought I'd love this book based on the summary, but instead, I really struggled with it. It just felt too busy overall, and many parts dragged with backstory, and both pulled me out of the story. Too many parts were predictable, and it didn't have the thriller feel I expected.

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This book started out a little slow for my liking but as I read further on it became more interesting. I found this to be a pretty decent debut and Ms. Fawcett has an amazing writing ability that I would read more of. This was spine tingling and very atmospheric and super creepy. The suspense kept me reading and on my toes looking for clues. I was on the edge of my seat for the most part and my jaw was tense. I loved the triple timeline format and wanting to know exactly what happened way back when kept me flipping the pages. This is a well thought out, suspenseful drama that blended the psychological with the paranormal and kept me so inthralled that I read it in a couple of sittings.

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With the feel of an urban legend or a ghost story, this is a delightfully eerie tale of friends who had drifted apart but are pulled back together by tragedy rooted in their shared past.

Set in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains (a favorite locale of mine, and which I wish the author had played up a bit more), the story tells the tale of a group of friends (four in the past timeline, though really only three figure in the present timeline), who, when they were 14 years old and about to enter high school, break into a local haunted house - the site of a family's gruesome murder - and experience something .... off, or at least two of them do. Later, those two go back and something very bad happens. Twenty years later, Abby, who was never the same after that night, is found near death in the house and her last words before slipping into a coma is her former best friend's name, Clare, drawing Clare back to her hometown and having to face the demons of all those years ago.

I don't want to give away any secrets, but the plot obviously takes place across various timelines, including into the dark history of the house, and it's pretty dark. But trust me, everything made really good sense. I didn't feel overwhelmed at all; the author did a great job of keeping things in good order and explaining things well. It all weaved together cohesively, though I wish some of the motives had been a little more fleshed out.

The ending was really creepy, as is fitting a true ghost story. It left a little to the imagination and gave you chills as things were revealed. There's supernatural elements and some just plain bad guys to contend with in this one, so that adds an extra creep factor. A little more supernatural than real-life, but like I said this is a ghost story.

If you're looking for a good ghost story to read by the fire during a nice winter chill, this would be an excellent one to curl up with. It will definitely give you the creeps!

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Clare is summoned back to her hometown when her childhood best friend attempts suicide at an abandoned old house where twenty years ago, the two friends were inexplicably drawn - a house that was the scene of a grizzly crime many years before. Beneath the Stairs tells the tale of the two girls, their friends and the secrets contained in that house in alternating time frames. The plot’s a familiar one, and the book lags in some spots, as there’s just too many backstories here which slows everything to a crawl, and it saps most of the suspense that’s trying to build up. The ending is predictable and unimaginative, as you’re hoping for more, but it just doesn’t deliver. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I've been going through a phase of craving the paranormal and the eerie, since before Halloween even. This is what led me to want to read Beneath the Stairs, the debut novel written by Jennifer Fawcett. Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for making it available to me to share my opinions on.

Clare has just returned to her small hometown of Sumner Mills, New York, shortly after her childhood friend supposedly attempted suicide in the basement of a long-abandoned house. When they were children, they'd ventured into this house, and very briefly the steps leading to the basement. Abby was never the same after the trauma that ensued. Now she's in a coma and all roads seem to lead back to this abandoned, oddly shaped house, where in 1965, a man supposedly killed his entire family. What is it with this house?

Really, much of the story is about love, loss, and mental health; surviving the curveballs life throws at us, and how we approach the things that scare us most. Do we face them or try to bury them deep and hide them?

The characters are a well-developed few with complex reasons for doing the things they do. This is a real strength of the book, in my opinion. The eerie pull the house has over the characters does reach out and grasp the reader, especially towards the beginning and again right towards the end. We get our answers as to what's with the house. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it was a touch mundane and overused. However, it is a fairly realistic reason, especially for those readers who believe in residual energy and karma. Mental health or lack thereof ties into this as well.

I felt like the book dragged on in the middle, even though it isn't an especially long novel. There were some chapters set in history, narrated by other people than Clare. Some were narrated by the man who was accused of killing his entire family in the house; his recollections. Most were appropriate, but there were a couple of them that didn't really need to be included, and wouldn't have ruined the story not to have them.

This was definitely an enjoyable read, and I'll be willing to pick up other books the author writes in the future should she choose to do so. It definitely had some eerie vibes and touches of the paranormal, but it never gave me the spine-tingling heebie-jeebies that I want to feel when I'm reading something classified as horror. Nonetheless, I would recommend it to fans of mysteries. You will want to keep reading to find out what the real deal is without a doubt.

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I've never read anything by this author before but sure will now. This book was so good. It was almost Stephen King good. Edge of your seat heart beating hard good. This was more than just a thriller. It was a paranormal in many ways and I usually will not even try those. It's a bit of a horror too. One of those books that is so far out there you wonder if you really just read that. I did and I loved it.

This book is told from two different time frames and by at least four different characters. It's about a house. An Octagon House. It was built by a man for his fiancee. The problem is his fiancee didn't much like the house. It had some strange things going on that made it a bit on the creepy side.

Over the years many children have gone into the Octagon House. How it affects them is different depending on the child. This story is about Abby, Clare and from the past Natalie and Alice. Another time frame is about Ben and his family. Ben tells parts of his story also. So it's basically three timelines. But easy to keep up with. Ben's family died in the Octagon House. His wife and two daughters. Someone shot the girls and pushed Natalie down the stairs killing her. But was it Ben? Could Ben have done such a horrible thing to the ones he loves more than life?

When Abby, Monica, Lori and Clare go into the house Abby comes out different. There are changes to her. To her mind. To her heart. To her fears. Time goes by and they all move on except for Abby. Whatever happened in that house, in that basement, on that day, affected Abby in a way that she can't recover from. She makes so many mistakes over the course of her life and several failed suicide attempts. Until that last visit when she overdoses. She's found barely alive.

This story is Clare's story also. What she did. What she goes through. What happened the night that changed both her and Abby's friendship forever. Changed their lives forever. What could have been so horrible that Abby could never move on. Never have a real life. What will it take for things to be normal and can it ever be normal for either of them again?

From the late 30s to the mid 60s to now. The Octagon House has caused so much trouble. So much pain. Taken so many. So much. Is it the house or is it what happened there. Or is it what happened to the land. The air. The people. To the innocents. Or is it something so far out there you will never know for sure. Ok you will know. But it's a dark story. A story of much loss. A gruesome story.

I loved it. I honestly did. From start to finish I loved it. I loved how things were brought together and made believable because of how the house was taken care of. Like you would see in almost any horror movie or read in any horror book. If done right things will take care of themselves. Right?

Thank you to #NetGalley, #JenniferFawcett, #Atria for this ARC. This is my own true thoughts about this book.

5/5 stars and a high recommendation. If you love dark scary edge of your seat stories, this is the one for you.

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Can i just say that i think this might be my favorite read of the year?

This was such a layered read. It was creepy, eerie & so atmospheric. I did not want to put it down and i was completely sucked in. It’s not often that book fully captivates me, but i forgot about the world around me and i lived within the pages.

It was haunting and dark. I loved the multiple timelines & points of view. The shifts were well done. I thought the character development was fantastic. I feel like this can be a little multi genre as well considering there’s a little romance, a bit of coming of age but ultimately it is a fantastic thriller and i was at the edge of seat dying to know how this story would end.

Such a gripping and compelling read!

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There's something drawing them into the basement of the octagon house....

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut novel by Jennifer Fawcett. The premise was intriguing, and I was not let down at all!

This story was written through multiple points of view; that of Clare (both past and present), Ben (the father who lived in the octagon house), Alice (the original builder of the house's almost wife- who disappeared), Natalie (the murdered mother who lived in the octagon house), and Joan (the almost murdered young daughter).

I thought that the character development was wonderful. I was truly attached to all of these characters, and their well-beings. I do wish that we had been able to dive deeper into the characters whose POV we only received one or two chapters on. I think it would have enhanced the story to get into their heads a little bit more.

I loved how deeply the main character's friendship was with Abby even when they hadn't spoken in 20 something years. When reading, I could feel the strength of the bond between them.

I also enjoyed the paranormal aspects of this story. Thinking of being in that basement was truly creepy. I also enjoyed the Buffalo location mentions as it is my hometown. Many of the places the author mentioned (i.e. Buffalo General Hospital) are real places in WNY.

Overall, I thought this was a great thriller, and an amazing debut for this author! Can't wait to read more from her!

Thank you so much to Jennifer Fawcett, the publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book before it was published in exchange for an honest review.

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Beneath the Stairs is a atmospheric thriller/horror that, for me, started out strong and then fizzled by end.
I loved the first three quarters of the book, I seriously could not put it down. The mystery is intriguing and the haunted house is genuinely scary. However at the end of the book, the supernatural element is never truly explained and the mystery is only half solved. That being said, I enjoyed the characters, they were relatable and flawed, and I like the three alternating timelines, which can sometimes break up the flow of the story but worked in this case worked really well.

Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for at advanced copy of the book.

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Clare returns to her hometown after her friend, Abby, attempts suicide at a haunted house where a traumatic event happened twenty years ago. The haunted house or "Octagon House”, as it’s called, is hidden deep in the woods and where a murder of a family took place. The husband, Ben, was arrested for the crime. When Abby and Clare were fourteen years old they ventured into this house and Abby has had an attachment to it ever since then. Clare is back to see her friends and get answers as to why Abby went back to the house so many years later.

This was a spooky mystery. I loved that it was told in three different timelines, each one telling a haunting story. This one kept me up late at night wanting to know more. A very interesting read. I was surprised this was Jennifer Fawcett's first book. Her writing is fantastic and I will be looking forward to reading her future books. Highly recommend reading.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria books for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

This review will be posted to my Instagram Blog (@coffee.break.book.reviews) in the near future.

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4.5 rounded up to 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I was looking for a creepy book to read since Halloween is approaching. I enjoy a good mystery/thriller, but I’m not really into horror. I don’t like gory, gross, “give me nightmares” books but I wanted to read something alittle bit scary. This was a perfect choice!! Just enough creepiness to give me a Halloween vibe but not enough that it freaked me out where I was afraid to keep reading. I am amazed that this is a debut novel because the writing was so good, I feel like I was reading a book by a best selling author. I predict that Jennifer Fawcett will one day be on that list! I can’t wait to read more of her books in the future. I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy and was able to read this around Halloween, which was perfect. It doesn’t come out until February 2022 but I highly recommend picking up a copy once it’s released!!

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!!

To see other reviews I’ve left, check out my Instagram and Goodreads pages:
*Instagram - bookworm_traveler808
*Goodreads - Cherihy808

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Wow- for a debut thriller, (or any thriller) this was an incredible spooky story. Excellent writing, character development, & a solid story/multiple timelines made this an enjoyable read. This exceeded my expectations. The cover sort of deterred me and it didn’t quite match the description of the staircase to the cellar matched in the book, but that was the only odd thing I could think of that stood out.
The ending was satisfying but still had enough air of mystery and superstition. I will recommend this on my book review page! Review to be posted on @upstatebookreads on Instagram

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This was a stunning debut! The writing was captivating and economic; while Jennifer Fawcett never uses two words when one will do, the word she chooses is aways the right one. The friendships she weaves between these four young friends are unbelievable in their clarity and tensions, and transported me back to that age of uncertainty and barely-covered resentments. An excellent first novel that has me eager to read whatever this author writes next.

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Given that I'm a Simone St James fan, I really liked this book. The writing was great, esp for a debut novel. Clare and Abby were great characters. The mystery was very good, if a little overwritten. The ending could have been more but it was also just enough.

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This thriller blends small-town secrets and supernatural elements for a page-turner.

I found the romance weirdly flat, but I think that might have been a function of all the time jumps.

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Beneath the Stairs is a book that kept me turning the pages right from the beginning. The concept of the Octagon House is so relatable and reminded me of all the ghost stories we told as kids. Fawcett’s well-developed characters and plotline created a fast-paced, creepy read. Well-done!

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Wow! If I hadn't read that this was a debut novel, I would never have guessed it. Pulls you in from the beginning. Though there were some supernatural elements, which is not my typical genre, I really enjoyed this story.

I am excited to see what this author comes up with next!

Thank you #netgalley and #atriabooks for the eARC.

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Beneath the Stairs is an atmospheric suspense thriller with supernatural undertones. Right up my alley. And yet it turned out to be quite a peculiar reading experience, enjoyable throughout but somewhat unsatisfactory in the end. It’s as if the book didn’t quite hold up to the rear view introspection. All the ingredients were there, the writing was perfectly good, but (as this can be easily attributed to debut jitters) it leaned heavily toward excess in execution. Which is to say it was quite heavily overwritten and, if you consider it in its entirety, a lot of the plot aspects went underutilized. Obviously, it’s difficult to go into specifics without giving too much away, but…well, one can try.
So, once upon a time there was a small town and in it, well, on the outskirts of it, there was a strange house, an octagonal shaped house with dark history and murderous past that stood abandoned and, as such places do, absolutely irresistible to local kids. Some went in and saw something in the basement that terrified them and continued to call back to them for years and decades since.
The main narrator, Clare, is one of those kids, now a grown woman, who comes back to her small town after finding out that her childhood friend went back to the basement and tried to commit suicide there. So yes, at its heart of hearts this is yet another one of those stories where the protagonist returns to their small town and its hidden evils after many years away.
And yes, because it’s a thriller, it has the prerequisite time split narrative, where you can follow Clare as a teenager and as an adult. But then, because it’s also kinda sorta a horror story it also takes you back to different timelines with different narrators who have all had the distinct displeasure of staying at the Octagon House. And also, sometimes it takes you to a different narrator during present time. Which is all to say…too many cooks in the kitchen.
The overall effect is busy. Too busy. To her credit, the author manages to juggle all those narrative balls, but it isn’t the easiest of tasks, because those balls are unbalanced. They work as individual self contained units, but when you consider them as a sum total, you realize that the past is simultaneously too drawn out and underplayed and in the end comes to a relatively minor haunting that has been blown out of proportion. The serial killer angle is all but buried in there. In fact, entirely too much of the story’s historical past has been sacrificed in favor of the formulaic present, including a romantic subplot and babies, babies, babies. Also, the ending…it’s just too freaking easy. Just puff and burn your worries away…after all that. Way too easy.
Had this been streamlined, it might have made for either a compelling if clichéd thriller or a compelling if clichéd ghost tale. As is it’s kind of a mess. A very readable and mostly enjoyable mess, but one that doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of retrospect. Take the Orpheus approach here, go through it, enjoy, but don’t look back. Thanks Netgalley.

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Beneath the Stairs is so much more than a haunted house story and I devoured this one from beginning to end! I love how it's not just a story about ghosts- it's a story about trauma and coping. I highly recommend it! You'll be both enthralled and spooked!

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I was looking for something different to read, I wanted spooky, but I don't deal well with horror and tend to have nightmares. Jennifer Fawcett's Beneath the Stairs was the perfect book for me. This book jumps between multiple timelines and characters. The main character is Clare and a lot of the story focuses on her & her best friend Abby, their story is told in 2 different times, 1998 when they are teenagers and first visit the local "cursed" house, and then modern day as they deal with fallout from childhood trauma. Part of the story is told in 1936, when the house is being built, and then we get part of the story told in 1965, about the only family to have lived in the house.

If you are looking for a super scary ghost story, or a bloody horror book, this book isn't going to satisfy you. I didn't have nightmares. I ended feeling sad for the ghost. The book was wrapped up in a very satisfying, kind of feel good, way. I really enjoyed this book, and will be watching for more from this author. Thank you NetGalley for the eARC!

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