Ramirez’s characters are relatable and flawed, and his approach to small Dos Santos makes readers feel like they live there too. Sarah and several other characters are devoutly Catholic, and faith plays an important role in the story, but there’s also casual sex, regular drinking, and an open attitude toward Judaism and other forms of spirituality. The interpersonal relationships are dramatic enough to keep a reader interested, but not so deep as to take away from the plot. At times, mundanity brushes up against horror in uncomfortable ways, as when a dinnertime discussion of domestic violence alternates with gushing over a perfect pizza crust. When a lesbian romance ends in tragedy, it’s more clichéd than poignant. But for the most part, there’s a warmth to the writing that will keep readers invested.
A newcomer could enjoy this installment without reading the first, but Ramirez leaves the story (frustratingly) open-ended, so picking up the next volume is a must. This mystery strikes a great balance between quirky and thrilling and between modern and timeless, and it’s easy to read, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.
Takeaway: This California-set supernatural investigation is perfect for readers who like their mysteries modern, suspenseful, and warm-hearted.
Great for fans of Victoria Laurie, Juliet Blackwell.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
Steven Ramirez is an experienced author, having published a number of books that tend to have quite sinister themes and sharp, character-led narratives. House of the Shrieking Woman has a number of consistent angles: it’s dark, to the point of at times being quite intimidating; it hacks in subtle ways at the psyche of both the characters involved and the reader, and it has some very substantial and often central religious undertones.
House of the Shrieking Woman is a solid psychological drama that steps away from the norm and carries a real small-town vibe. Claustrophobic and surreal, it spins from creepy to thoughtful with a stark and memorable narrative.
Pitting her nascent investigative skills against a sinister power that thrives in places of pain and suffering, the main character makes this quick thriller hard to put down. Ramirez is a master of building tension when the story most calls for it, making House of the Shrieking Woman a thrillingly dark slice of suspense.