The Birthing House
By Christopher Ransom
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312385842, 320pp.)
Publication Date: August 4, 2009
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It was expecting them.
Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house’s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims “belongs to the house.” Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife….
Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna’s American dream into a relentless nightmare.
An extraordinary marriage of supernatural thrills and exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force.
Christopher Ransom is a native of Boulder, Colorado, who has lived in New York and Los Angeles. He now resides with his wife and three rescued dogs in a 142-year-old former birthing house in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
Advance Praise for The Birthing House
“A blend of supernatural horror and psychological thriller, Ransom’s impressive debut chronicles a couple’s descent into madness after they purchase a 140-year-old Victorian house in rural Wisconsin . . . this addictively readable ghost story will keep readers up all night, with the lights on, of course.” —Publishers Weekly“As much about the terrors of humankind as it is about the supernatural, this is an exceptional debut . . . Ransom’s style mimics that of the early Stephen King and Dan Simmons’s horror fiction.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Adjustable-rate mortgages are frightening indeed, but what about the underlying property? This debut novel by Christopher Ransom gives a new spin to the venerable haunted-house story. . . . Ransom has a distinctive narrative voice, and a Stephen King-like gift for the dreadful lurking behind the everyday. . . . The novel builds to a gripping climax that will make you think twice, maybe three times, about making an offer on that beautiful old fixer-upper.”—SmartMoney magazine
“A biting and well-written novel… The kind of genuinely scary story that makes little hairs stand up on the back of your neck… This is a rare thing: a ghost story with class. Read it.”—Peter Blauner, author of the New York Times bestseller Slipping Into Darkness
“The birth of an exciting new voice in dark fiction… The Birthing House is a book that will leave you holding your breath.”—Scott Nicholson, Bram Stoker Award finalist, author of They Hunger
“Either I don’t know my horror stories (and I do know my horror stories) or Christopher Ransom’s The Birthing House was so all-out scary that it kept me up until the wee hours in a way few novels have since Carrie went to the prom…. This book is killer.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean
“The Birthing House is as scary as they come…. It’s quite simply a terrific novel.” —Marcus Sakey, author of The Blade Itself
“Terrifying and beautiful. I couldn’t put The Birthing House down.” —Sara Gran, author of Dope
“A damn creepy, very original ghost story.” —Jack Ketchum, Bram Stoker Award winner, author of The Lost
“A stunning debut—swaddling the reader in dread from the very first sentence, and spiraling into a heart-stopping climax.”—Michael Marshall, New York Times bestselling author of The Straw Men
“Christopher Ransom’s debut is so disturbing at times that it will truly terrify readers, quite an accomplishment for a debut, in my opinion. (The Birthing House brings to mind very early John Saul.) Ransom shows great promise in the horror genre.”—BookBitch.com
“Once in a long while, the claim of a ‘stunning debut novel’ is actually deserved. Christopher Ransom's The Birthing House is one of those rarities. Not a traditional mystery -- no cops-and-villains stuff, nary a PI to be found. Nor a straight-up horror story, haunted-house or otherwise. But, merging all of these, thriller it most assuredly is. And if little shudders aren’t tap-dancing your spine about 20 pages into this thing you should lay off the Prozac. . . . Infectiously terrifying (not least because Ransom does not bludgeon you with it), this tale could make you re-examine your dreams, memories, marriage, kids, neighbours, even your dog. And stop your breath cold.”—Winnipeg Free Press