When I first saw the cover of The Residence, I was skeptical. A ghost story set in the White House? It seemed ambitious. I have a lot of feelings about residents that are currently haunting the White House but none of them are paranormal entities.
Still, the idea was tantalizing so I put in my request to review.
After reading the full synopsis, I was shocked to learn that this story is actually a historical fiction novel. Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States. He only served one term and his claim to fame is that he basically set into motion the events leading up to the Civil War.
Apparently, Pierce and the First Lady, Jane Pierce came to live in the White House under extreme emotional duress. Andrew Pyper explores the powerful dynamic of shared grief within the parameters of marriage.
While Jane Pierce struggles with the recent loss of their child, Franklin Pierce is leading the United States of America, and readers are given a front row seat to the way in which those two worlds collide.
I enjoyed this book as a supernatural, domestic thriller with a strong, melancholy atmosphere. Jane and Franklin were not exactly relatable, which doesn’t mean a reader can’t invest in their story, but it does mean that there are some pitfalls. It’s hard to imagine people making such poor personal choices in certain circumstances.
And while it was initially intriguing for this horror novel to be set in the White House, I found there to be too much focus on mundane events—creating lulls in the action that could potentially lose some horror fans who are eager for the thrills and chills.
I did find myself skipping ahead through a few pages on more than one occasion and I felt like I didn’t miss out on anything that would do a disservice to the plot. Pyper is an exceptional storyteller and I don’t think admitting this is a slight on his ability; perhaps just a sign that avid horror fiction junkies are sometimes impatient with slow burns.
It’s my feeling that readers who love historical fiction thrillers like Alma Katsu’s The Hunger or The Deep would love this book.