Adrienne Martini Reviews A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A House with Good Bones, T. Kingfisher (Tor 978-1-250-82979-5, $26.99, 256 pg, hc) March 2023. Cover by Karolis Strautniekas.

In A House with Good Bones, T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon) travels back into the horror section like she did with What Moves the Dead. This time, the subject is roses rather than fungi, but rest assured, there are still the dead.

Sam, a 30-something archaeoentomologist, returns to one of her childhood homes in rural North Carolina because a research dig she was about to start will be delayed. Edie, her mom, inherited the place from Sam’s grandmother, who was a complicated woman with very strong opinions, to put it most generously. When Sam pulls up, there’s a vulture camped out on the mailbox. And things, as you’d expect, get weirder and weirder. Then they get downright dangerous.

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m not much of a horror reader. While I went through the requisite Stephen King phase in junior high, I haven’t picked up that much of it since. I’m not fully steeped in the customs and traditions of the genre. I am, however, a huge fan of Vernon’s work. Her Nettle and Bone is one of the best books of the last few years. It takes the whole fantasy quest narrative and turns it inside out in interesting and smart ways. Her Saint of Steel series expertly balances fantasy, romance, and humor. To say nothing of her YA stories that are far deeper than they first appear.

I mention all of that in order to say this: A House with Good Bones is fine. Sam’s voice is engaging. Vernon captures a place and time with panache. The grandmother’s character is more complicated than she first appears, which is great. Plus, there are vultures, who keep the mood somehow fun. It’s a nice enough story to pass the time with. Sometimes, that’s all you want.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the April 2023 issue of Locus.

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