When Conrad Harrison impulse-buys a big old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn’t share his enthusiasm, reluctant at the idea of leaving their LA life – so Conrad is left to set up their new home as she ties up loose ends at work. But Conrad’s new purchase is not all that it seems. Soon Conrad is hearing the ghostly wailing of a baby in the night, seeing blood on the floor and being haunted by a woman who looks exactly like Jo. With his wife away, Conrad becomes obsessed by the pregnant girl next door, Nadia, who claims to be a victim of the evil in the house. The crying leads him to a bricked-up body, and the mystery of the Birthing House unravels, pulling in Jo, Nadia and leading Conrad to a nightmarish conclusion…
When The Birthing House came through the post I thought it looked like a very interesting and promising book, so even though it isn’t something I usually read I jumped in and hoped for the best. Unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the spot and although it gave me a shiver down my spine a couple of times, I just didn’t feel that it followed through on those early promises.
The characters we follow – mainly Conrad, his wife, Jo, and next door neighbours daughter Nadia – are interesting enough and the relationships that Christopher Ransom explores have many levels. This part of the story, the breakdown of the relationship with his wife, the obsession with Nadia and in turn her problems with her ex-boyfriend, are an interesting look at life when things don’t go to plan. The ghost aspect of the novel also ties this part in tighter, but it just doesn’t follow through with a scary story, more like a series of revelations that build with intensity until we get the final one.
I think my main problem with the ghost aspect is the way that Conrad deals with it. It doesn’t come across as entirely believable and I found myself shaking my head and wondering why he just carries on when things happen as they do. Conrad doesn’t appear too bothered about any of these occurrences and once they’ve happened his focus switches back to the relationships rather than the very strange happenings in his house. The incidents themselves only gave me a shiver down my spine a couple of times, the scares not really affecting me the way I expected them to.
It’s a shame that the story didn’t hit me at the right level, the writing certainly hits the right spots and I could easily read Christopher Ransom for hours on end. Here’s hoping that his next novel connects with me on the level it’s intended too and not just fly wide of the mark.