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The Dwelling    by Susie Moloney order for
by Susie Moloney
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2003)
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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Realtor Glenn Darnley is beginning to fear that the house on Belisle Street is becoming what's known in her profession as 'a white elephant'. Most prospective buyers seem afraid of the house, and she's had odd episodes herself while preparing it for showings, (things skittering in the shadows and old-fashioned music playing).

Recently widowed and still trying to deal with the loss of her beloved husband, Glenn simply shrugs it off as stress. But no matter how many times she shows it most buyers are turned off the home after some incident shakes them - or in some cases scares them so badly they can't get out the front door fast enough. Other realtors with whom Glenn works have the same problem and they fear that 362 Belisle will go off the market.

Over the course of a few seasons, Glenn does manage to sell the house on Belisle Street three times: first to a young upwardly mobile couple -- he's an aspiring comic book writer and she's working her way up the corporate ladder. They're experiencing some marital discord and their new home quickly begins to affect each of them in very nasty ways.

The next buyer is a recently divorced woman still very bitter over her husband leaving her for another woman. She has high hopes that she and her young son Peter can make a new start. Almost immediately Peter has difficulties in school; he's constantly teased about his weight. He soon finds the ghostly child, Mariette (who appears in his room and in the overgrown backyard) much more fun to play and convinces his mother to come with him the next time his 'new friends' beckon to him.

The third buyer is a novelist who's suffered a damaging break-up with his girlfriend, drinks too much, and can't seem to get his next book started. He doesn't recall writing the words that suddenly appear on his computer screen one night, and is terrified when he begins seeing images of his father, an alcoholic who had committed suicide. All the characters seem very ordinary at first, with typical problems, fears and vulnerabilities. But once they fall under the thrall of their new home, you begin to wonder if their special vulnerabilities are what keeps 362 Belisle alive.

The Dwelling is one of those rare books that grabs you round the throat before you know it. Maloney's multiple characterizations are rich and involved. She threads together her three connecting plots with such skillful depth and gradual increase of tension that it takes a while before you realize just how creepy her story truly is. This one's sure to become a classic -- don't miss it.

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