Title: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In her all-new supernatural thriller, bestselling indie horror author Ania Ahlborn asks: How far would you go for success? What would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?
With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.
Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn is an absolutely mesmerizing and downright spooky novel with supernatural elements. Part mystery, part ghost story, this story is incredibly fast paced with a unique storyline that has horror/suspense/paranormal aspects that fans of psychological thrillers will love.
Lucas Graham is a true crime author who desperately needs a best-seller that will revive his stalled career and hopefully save his failing marriage. When he receives a letter from convicted murderer and cult leader Jeffrey Halcomb offering him the exclusive story about the murder/suicides of ten of his followers, Lucas does not think twice before agreeing to Halcomb’s terms. Lucas, along with his twelve year old daughter Jeanie, pack up and move across country to live in the house where the infamous deaths occurred thirty years earlier. Ghostly apparitions, unexplained sounds and eerie sightings begin immediately after their arrival and soon both Jeanie and Lucas experience extreme changes in their personality. Could there be a rational explanation for these bizarre occurrences? Or is the reason far more sinister than either Jeanie or Lucas could possibly imagine?
Lucas is on a tight deadline for his interviews with Halcomb and he immediately immerses himself in his writing project. After he runs into a dead end, he considers packing up and returning to New York, but surprisingly, Jeanie tries to talk him into staying. When a neighbor provides him with invaluable information about Halcomb and the other cult members, Lucas decides to take the book in a new direction. His once close relationship with Jeanie soon begins to suffer when Lucas becomes obsessed with the cult leader and the deaths of his followers.
Jeanie is also fascinated by the history of the house and her research leads to a surprising adulation of Jeffrey Halcomb. She is angry with Lucas for breaking his promises to her and her resentment over his neglect is relieved by her friendship with their new neighbor, Echo. Jeanie’s avid interest in the occult takes a shocking turn after Echo confides stunning information that bolsters Jeanie’s growing fixation with Halcomb. This leaves Jeanie susceptible to manipulation that could have devastating consequences.
The events from thirty years ago are exposed through a series of flashbacks that provide vital information about Halcomb and his followers. The months leading up to the mass suicides/murders are meticulously detailed and reveal how the charismatic leader exploits the weaknesses of those living on the fringes of society. These recollections show how the cult ingratiates themselves with Audra Snow, an emotionally fragile young woman who is estranged from her family. She invites them into her home and over the course of several months, she becomes a believer of their twisted ideology. The final months and days leading up to the murder/suicides are particularly poignant and it is absolutely heartbreaking when Audra’s experiences with the cult are fully revealed.
Within These Walls is a suspense laden novel that is quite riveting. Ania Ahlborn expertly combines supernatural elements with an intriguing mystery and the resulting story is a spine tingling psychological thriller that thunders to a jaw-dropping and completely unexpected conclusion.