Title: The House in the Pines
Author: Ana Reyes
Published: January 10th 2023
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 3 stars
This is the story of a house.
The cabin lies deep in the woods, where the trees are so dense it’s easy to miss. On the outside it might look like it’s crumbling, crawling with weeds, but on the inside it’s warm and cosy. A fire crackles in the fireplace. Dinner simmers on the stove.
Maya once saw this cabin as an idyllic place, like a cottage from a fairy tale, but now she knows the danger that lurks beneath. The summer she visited the cabin was the summer her best friend Aubrey died.
Now, another woman from Maya’s hometown has died in the same strange, unexplained way, and Maya believes only she can save the next innocent girl.
Guided by her fractured memory and a mysterious, unfinished book by her late father, Maya returns home to face the house in the pines and the man who waits there – the man she’s tried so hard to forget . . .
Creative writing teacher Ana Reyes published her debut novel in January this year. The House in the Pines was selected by Reese Witherspoon’s popular book club as its book of the month. Riley Sager, one of my all time favourite thriller authors has also endorsed The House in the Pines. Unsettling, convoluted and twisted, Ana Reyes has produced an atmospheric psychological thriller.
A story of what happens when your memories and the past comes back to haunt you, The House in the Pines is the first novel from Ana Reyes. We learn that high school student Maya’s best friend Aubrey died in shocking circumstances in the company of a strange figure named Frank. This tragic event followed the summer that Aubrey, Maya and Frank all spent time together. Moving forward in time to five years later, Maya has tried to move on from this tragic event by moving to a different area. Now in Boston, Maya has tried to suppress her memories of Aubrey with substance abuse, but these painful reminders of the past refuse to go away. Maya’s life changes yet again when she encounters a YouTube clip that shows another young person dying in the same way as Aubrey. This recent reminder of the shock loss of her friend sends Maya back home where she continues to fight tough memories of times gone by. What disturbing information will Maya find back home?
The cover of The House in the Pines is so stunning that I set this one up to be a top class read. With the Reese Witherspoon book club badge plastered in the front cover, I just knew this one was going to be a ripper. Sadly, although I went into this one with high expectations, I was let down by the confusing timeline structure and perplexing storyline.
Firstly, I need to acknowledge the efforts of Ana Reyes in creating a rather spooky and creepy setting. I loved the cabin and surrounding backdrop, it felt quite surreal. Reyes does a great job in this department and I did feel as though I had been transported to the eerie New England locale, complete with some Guatemalan undertones. Reyes shows talent in this area, but it wasn’t enough to lift this story to a higher rating for me. Reyes has a good eye for detail and her prose is quite defined. However, I did find areas of the narrative confusing and disjointed. I felt as though I was out of the loop in regards to the timeline and location interchanges.
The premise of this one was interesting enough and I was looking forward to seeing where the narrative would go. I was sure The House in the Pines was going down the supernatural route, but it seemed to be more like a contemporary mystery with some psychological themes. The lead character was okay but Maya’s story didn’t really have a significant impact on me. There are some touchy themes on abuse, addiction, memory recall, trauma and loss, which Reyes handles quite well. I was keen to get to the end and the final twist, but this was also underwhelming.
A story with a lot happening and one too many subplots, The House in the Pines is a lingering psychological mystery tale that may spark the interest of readers of the genre.
The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes is published by Hachette Australia on January 10th 2023. $32.99.
To learn more about the author of The House in the Pines, Ana Reyes, visit here.