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Echoes of Ballard House (Simone Doucet Series Book 3)

by E. Denise Billups

Rating: *****

Simone Doucet cannot believe her luck when cousin, Gisele, asks her to house-sit her beautifully lavish Queen Anne Victorian mansion, Ballard House, set within the Garden District of New Orleans and which, by a quirk of fate, she and her husband Theo had been gifted by way of inheritance.

But Ballard House has ghoulish secrets concealed within its walls; dark, shameful secrets that begin to whisper themselves to Simone, and murderous secrets that cross the divide between the living and dead…

Echoes of Ballard House is a multi-layered novel, unfolded from several perspectives and with a number of plot tangents and angles. The gory prologue, set in 1919, perfectly sets the tone with its violently tangled web of clues and half-reveals that introduce as many puzzling questions for the reader as answers.

Fast-forward ninety-nine years, the current owner of the house, Miranda Reid, a descendant of the Ballards, has left Ballard House to its rightful inheritor, Theo Lawrence, with the agreement of her nephew, Jensen.

It's a slightly involved backstory, but Billups discloses what the reader needs to know at this stage with clarity and credibility before moving to Spring 2020 and Simone’s arrival to house-sit.

This is the first Simone Doucet novel I have read, and, personally, it stands alone. There are references to previous outings but Billups gives subtle context, although a family tree might have been beneficial.

Notwithstanding, from the moment Simone sets foot in Ballard House there is a creeping sense of foreboding and disquiet, and not just because of her gift of second sight. As Gisele shows her around, there is a palpable air of unease, heightened by the foreshadowing hints that Billups cleverly works into the narrative.

Details matter in this novel, and with practically every element that Simone touches upon in Ballard House, the reader feels a distinct shiver of apprehension that it will feature in some negative or pivotal way as the story progresses.

Further, there is tension in the dynamics between Simone, Gisele, and Theo which provokes curiosity. Once Gisele and Theo leave, Billups takes Simone, and the reader, into disturbing territory, heavy with fear and dread.

The nucleus of Billups's story, Ballard House, is fully realized as a character in its own right. She registers the place so absolutely and with a feeling for space and transitory effects as well as the complexities of the security system which she visually brings to life; the modern, watchful cameras contrasting with the spectral disturbances.

As Simone begins her first day alone in Ballard House, Billups swiftly ratchets up the tension to a screaming pitch, causing the narrative to explode into a truly nerve-shredding, psychological horror. It’s chilling stuff, with terror after terror, real and imagined, being relentlessly piled on.

However, although all plot roads eventually lead back to the reach of Ballard House, Billups teases the reader, and gently slows the pace, with a couple of intriguing, character-driven tangents, foremost of these is the chemistry between Jensen and Simone, which is handled with delicate sensuousness.

As the unquiet atmosphere in Ballard House threatens to engulf Simone, Billups throws a twist into events, which, as the reader has been privy to the murmurings of the otherworldly occupants of Ballard House, brilliantly dovetails the action.

Indeed, as the conclusion draws near, the crux of the story is more twisty and complex than first realized but Billups ensures all strands are elucidated with clear-eyed precision. It’s a thought-provoking, poignant, and plausible ending.

Throughout, Billups writing has a poised and intelligent quality, richly descriptive and sensate yet without superfluity, it’s utterly compelling from the first page. Her prose is as elegantly considered as her plotting and beautifully complements the intricacies of her imagination.

Echoes of Ballard House is a grippingly good novel. Vivid, intense, and incredibly frightening in places, it comes highly recommended but maybe not before bedtime.

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Rose, thank you for this wonderfully detailed review and for participating in Coffee and Thorn Blog book tour! ❤️❤️

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