Devil House: A Novel
John Darnielle interrogates the true crime genre’s highest aspirations and basest instincts. Devil House is a gripping read that questions what the true costs of salacious stories are, and who pays them.
From John Darnielle, the New York Times bestselling author and the singer-songwriter of the Mountain Goats, comes an epic, gripping novel about murder, truth, and the dangers of storytelling.
Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That’s what his mother always told him when he was a child. Years later, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success—and a movie adaptation—to his name, along with a series of subsequent less notable efforts. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: to move into the house where a pair of briefly notorious murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected teens during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Chandler finds himself in Milpitas, California, a small town whose name rings a bell—his closest childhood friend lived there, once upon a time. He begins his research into the murders with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected—back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.
Devil House is John Darnielle’s most ambitious work yet, a book that blurs the line between fact and fiction, that combines daring formal experimentation with a spellbinding tale of crime, writing, memory, and artistic obsession.
Praise for Devil House: A Novel
“Devil House is terrific: confident, creepy, a powerful and soulful page-turner. I had no idea where it was going, in the best possible sense...It’s never quite the book you think it is. It’s better.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Suspenseful, brilliant and chaotically addicting, Devil House triumphs as a page-turning metafictional treatise on the power of narratives cloaked in the trappings of a certifiable true crime classic." —Zack Ruskin, San Francisco Chronicle
“Devil House has all the gross-out hallmarks of horror and true crime while also questioning the moral implications of the genres.”—Los Angeles Times
“Devil House can be read as an indictment of the true crime genre, specifically of the way stories are concocted to explain often-unfathomable tragedies, and of how some stories take precedence over others regardless of their truth. . . this is a story about what can’t be told because the nature of telling selects some truths while setting others aside.”—Slate
“‘What happens to the story; what happens to the teller; what happens to the people?’ Darnielle renders this dilemma—and the bad-taste curiosity that compels people to read and write true crime despite reservations—with such depth and clarity that it feels like he’s somehow culpable too. That’s good fiction writing.”—The A.V. Club
"Devil House is not a novel about karma or comeuppance. It is a portrait — sometimes direct, sometimes refracted — of a man realizing that his career, combined with his powerful imagination, has taken him far from his morals. In many such narratives, the career wins. Refreshingly, in Devil House, the morals do." —NPR
“While I expected bloody twists and turns, the kinds of twists and turns this novel threw at me were intoxicating. . . Crime-thriller hooks, emotional and philosophical reflection, and one of the most subtle and devastating endings I’ve ever read: Devil House is a novel I know I’ll be returning to.”—Jack Casella Brookins, Chicago Review of Books
“Darnielle has an affection for the dark side of pop culture and the way fans of supposedly gloom-and-doom genres like heavy metal and horror are more sophisticated than they get credit for. So this smart, twisty novel about true-crime books and the 1980s “Satanic panic” is a fine fit for him and his best so far...An impressively meta work that delivers the pleasures of true-crime while skewering it.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“This masterwork of suspense is as careful with its sharp takes as it is with the bread crumbs it slowly drops on the way to its stunning end. It operates perfectly on many levels, resulting in a must-read for true crime addicts and experimental fiction fans alike.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review