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Book Review: “What Moves the Dead” and other horrors

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher,” T. J. Kingfisher’s retelling “What Moves the Dead” gives the work a nightmarish and unsettling twist.

When retired lieutenant, Alex Faston, receives a letter from their dying childhood friend Madeline Usher, they rush to her ancestral home in the countryside of Ruritania. Alex finds the property teeming with acres of fungi, strange wildlife, and a pulsing lake when they arrive. Madeline and her brother sleepwalk, speak in strange voices, and suffer from paranoia.

With the help of a British mycologist and an American doctor, Alex dives into the secrets of the House of Usher–or risks being consumed by the same maladies as the Ushers.

Kingfisher’s writing style would make Poe proud–intricately detailed and steeped in suspense. The writing had wildly cinematic energy that most authors can only aspire to achieve.

This retelling is an impressive continuation of Poe’s classic with all of the makings of a perfect horror, but falls short with the strange fungi and possessed rabbits. Although suspenseful, the nail-biting, heart-pounding fear Kingfisher tried to weave into the narrative was lacking. The nightmarish fungi were reminiscent of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bestseller “Mexican Gothic” without the actual nightmare, making this novel a bit of a let-down in that department.

Beautifully detailed and an unsettling revamp, “What Moves the Dead” had all the makings of a horror classic. Still, it fell short of inciting fear or obsession. Nevertheless, I’ll never look at fungi the same way again after “What Moves the Dead.”

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