Within These Walls

Within These Walls

by Ania Ahlborn

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476783796
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 04/21/2015
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 254,377
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Brother, Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, and the novellas The Pretty Ones and I Call Upon Thee. Born in Ciechanow, Poland, she lives in South Carolina with her husband and their dog. Visit AniaAhlborn.com or follow the author on Facebook and Twitter @AniaAhlbornAuthor.

Read an Excerpt

Within These Walls


1

YOU’VE GOT TO be kidding.”

Caroline Graham pivoted on the soles of her feet, coffeepot in hand, and for the briefest of moments, Lucas saw his wife’s intentions reflected in the blue of her eyes. He imagined her arm pistoning away from her, freshly brewed coffee splashing out of the carafe in a caramel-colored wave. Delicate ripples of steam would dance ghostlike through the air before spraying across his face and neck, scalding him, because Caroline had no more words. This was it. He had pushed her too far.

“No,” she said, calm as she set the coffeepot on the kitchen counter, but it was nothing more than a momentary suppression of outrage. Caroline was the master of the slow burn, and no matter how hard she tried to hide it, he knew he’d just lit her fuse. He saw it in the way her fresh manicure gripped the edge of the sink. She stood with her back to him, and while he couldn’t see her face, he was sure of her expression—lips tight, teeth clamped, the space between her eyebrows puckered into an angry ridge. It was Caroline’s go-to face when it came to fury and outrage. Lately, it felt as though it was the only expression she wore.

“No, this is crazy, just crazy. Goddammit. Of all the times, Lou . . .”

It was a wonder she still called him by his nickname. Lucas was keeping a mental tally of his full name in ratio to the shortened one, and the scales had definitely tipped toward the formal Lucas rather than the more affectionate Lou. When they had first met, Caroline had a penchant for calling him Louie, but that was a name that had altogether disappeared, and from the look of it, it was only a matter of time before Lou suffered the same fate. How she referred to him was his measuring stick, some quantifiable way of determining the health of their unhealthy relationship. For years, disenchantment and marital grievances had plagued their once-happy union. Now, that thing they called a marriage was on life support and Caroline’s hand seemed to be constantly itching to pull the plug. Less of a nihilist than his wife, Lucas was awaiting a miraculous recovery. He was holding his breath, his fingers crossed that he’d get the chance to rediscover the dark-­humored girl he’d fallen for nearly twenty years before.

“So, you just want to uproot us?” Caroline turned and fixed her eyes on his. “Uproot Jeanie? Force her to give up all of her friends, her school?”

The loser of his wife’s staring contest, Lucas looked away first, peered down at his hands, swallowed. The hard wood of the kitchen bar stool was making his butt numb. The overhead lights struck him as too bright, spontaneously blazing hot like dying stars. Suddenly, all he wanted to do was walk out of the kitchen and forget he ever made the suggestion, but it was too late to pretend he could make things better by wishful thinking alone. Couldn’t Caroline see that? He was trying to fix things, not just for himself, but for the three of them as a whole. As a family. As something they used to be. Something he hoped they could be again.

“And what about me, huh?” He could hear the glare in her tone. What about her? He could still remember her as the once-upon-a-time girl who had stolen his heart, the girl who no longer dyed her hair black. They had once had things in common—a lifestyle of clubs and candles and incense smoke curling through dimly lit rooms. Now, pressed to compare the Caroline of before to the Caroline of now, he’d hardly recognize her at all. Blond. Proper. The owner of more than a couple of business suits and over a dozen pairs of high heels. And then there was her most severe transgression, the one he never had the balls to mention. “What about my job?” she asked, snapping his attention back to her. “It doesn’t matter that I’ve busted my ass to get to where I am?”

Lucas considered cutting her off, contemplated finally laying it all out and bringing up the always-dashing-and-never-ordinary Kurt Murphy. Oh really? Busting your ass? he thought. Or climbing up the ladder while lying on your back? No, he didn’t dare.

“Of course it matters.” He kept his head bowed and his eyes averted. Making eye contact with Caroline while she was in the throes of aggravation never made things better. That, and he didn’t want her to see it in his face—the fact that he knew about Kurt, that he’d known for a long time.

The last few weeks had made him certain; the way she came home late, always blaming the trains when a quick online confirmation proved they were running just fine. The way she avoided being in the same room as him for longer than a few seconds, as though afraid that occupying the same space would force them to interact with one another, would possibly coerce them into conversation or, God forbid, some sort of truce. The smell of a cologne he didn’t own, most likely too expensive for him to afford.

“Well, it obviously doesn’t matter much,” she countered. He peeked up at her, caught her narrowing her eyes at the granite counter. She shook her head as if suddenly overcome by a fresh bout of frustration. “You have some nerve.” Her eyes flashed, imploring him to give her one good reason, one good excuse as to why he’d throw them into such turmoil. “It’s always about you, isn’t it? It’s always about you.”

“It’s about us. About getting back to where we once were.” It was as close as he could come to saying what he meant.

Caroline went silent. Her expression became an odd mix of vulnerability and indignation. She shifted her weight from one bare foot to the other. The overhead light cast shadows that veiled her eyes. For a flash of a second, she looked like that once-upon-a-time girl, the one he so desperately missed. The floodlights caught the strawberry hue of her blond hair, the faint smattering of freckles God had sprinkled across her cheeks like cosmic constellations. He couldn’t maintain eye contact, not when she was glowering at him like that. Lucas turned his attention away.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

It meant everything; where they used to be financially before things went belly-up, and also as a couple, loving and laughing and happy rather than the way they were now—stray cats hissing and swatting at each other if one got too close. And then there was Kurt. But the way Caroline was standing right then, her arms crossed over her chest, peering down her nose, it made Lucas wonder if what used to be could ever be again. Sometimes people change, she’d once told him. There’s no going back. They’re different forever, a doppelgänger of their former self.

“I talked to John about it,” he said. “He thinks it’s a good idea.” Except that was a lie. Lucas’s literary agent, John Cormick, had stared out at him from across a manuscript-cluttered desk with a blank expression on his face. When Lucas opened his messenger bag and dug out the letter he’d received from Washington State’s maximum-security prison, John’s blank stare bloomed into disbelief. He’d snatched the letter out of Lucas’s hand and read it once, twice, three times for good measure while Lucas looked on with crushing anticipation. He could already see his agent’s reaction in his head; John would look up with eyes blazing, his face awash with a stunning sense of revelation. My God! he’d say. It’s like you’ve won the lottery, Lou. It’s like someone found Willy Wonka’s golden ticket and dropped it into your lap. But all John responded with was trepidation. Because the notorious Jeffrey Halcomb didn’t talk to reporters. And he certainly didn’t talk to two-bit crime writers who hadn’t had a hit in over a decade.

“Yeah, sure. John thinks everything is a good idea,” Caroline said. Her words were clipped, impatient. “You could tell him you’re thinking about writing a book on suicide, tell him you’re going to jump off a cliff for research, and John Cormick will say, ‘Wow, Lucas, that’s a great idea! Why don’t you do that and we’ll set up a call for next week, see how it all pans out.’ ”

“You could at least lend a little support,” he muttered.

Caroline’s blue eyes blazed. Her freckles faded beneath the flush of her cheeks. She shoved piecey strands of hair behind her ears and gave him an incredulous stare. “Really?” She exhaled a harsh laugh, the kind that made the hair on the back of his neck bristle, assuring him he had said the most unacceptably offensive thing. “Because I haven’t backed you up for long enough, right, Lucas?” Lucas, not Lou. “I haven’t spent the last decade telling you that everything will work out? Or maybe I haven’t killed myself with overtime; I couldn’t even spend last Thanksgiving with my parents because I had to haul myself back into the office to meet a deadline.”

A deadline? Maybe. A holiday screw against a high-rise office window? Most likely.

“Which part of that was me not lending a little support? Because I guess I’m just too damn stupid to figure it out.”

She was a liar. An adulteress. A provocateur. For a flash of a second, he wanted to slam his hands against the counter and scream every ugly accusation to let her know he wasn’t that stupid. He knew. He’d known all along. And yet, he still loved her despite her betrayal, still wanted things to go back to the way they had once been despite her false heart.

The last ten years had been tough on them both. He and John would have the same conversation every six months: It isn’t you, bud, it’s the genre. We’re in a slump, but things will pick up. True crime didn’t sell the way it used to—certainly not the way it had the year Virginia was born, when Lucas was so busy juggling a new baby girl and a state-by-state book tour that he had to gasp for breath between radio interviews and morning talk shows.

Good Morning America.

Today.

Good Day LA.

Now Jeanie was pushing thirteen, Caroline was barely keeping them afloat as a joint venture broker, and Lucas was still a writer. The difference was that he was no longer sitting on the New York Times bestseller list and he was afraid to look at his royalty statements. He blindly deleted them from his inbox, because staring at numbers with a sense of dread and disappointment didn’t make them grow. He’d learned that the hard way, while packing up boxes and selling the house in Port Washington to move to Queens.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “You’re right. One hundred percent. You’ve been my biggest advocate, my rock.”

She flicked her gaze up at him, giving him a cut the bullshit look. “So what, then? I should just roll over again, right? Give in, tell you that this is all okay, that you suggesting we up and move clear across the country and leave everything behind is a fair request because I’m your rock.” Another bitter, eye-rolling laugh.

“You know I feel like shit about this, right?” He peered at his hands while his stomach churned beneath the drawstring band of his pajama pants, as if trying to digest his unpalatable apprehension. “The overtime, the holidays . . .” The other man. “It makes me feel like a grade-A loser, like I had this amazing opportunity and I . . .” He hesitated, searched for the right word. “. . . I squandered it.”

She kept quiet, grabbed the abandoned coffeepot by its handle, and splashed fresh brew into two mugs—black for her, half-skim for him. Marriage did strange things to people. It could have been World War III in that kitchen, but if there was coffee, two mugs would always be served.

He waited for her to tell him that he hadn’t squandered anything, that he wasn’t psychic and couldn’t have possibly known what was going to sell and what was going to bomb. He hoped that, perhaps, she’d admit that with all the cuts and layoffs at her own firm, she wasn’t making as much as she used to either. He wanted to hear that it wasn’t completely his fault, but all he got was: “You should have fired John when I told you to.”

Lucas bit his tongue. Slow sales or not, John’s belief in his work had been steadfast. At his worst, most desperate moments, Lucas could pick up the phone and John would be there, telling him to take it easy, telling him to put his head down and keep working, Keep working. Fuck the reviews, screw the numbers, just keep working. Except year after year, things got steadily worse. Lucas knew this was his last shot, but Caroline was fed up with empty optimism. She’d crossed her fingers for so long they had fused together like the branches of a tree.

Caroline closed her eyes and exhaled. She held her mug aloft, the steam coiling around her features like tendrils of smoke. Lucas decided to wait it out, praying that she’d give him this one last try at turning things around. She never liked their house in Briarwood, never took to the neighborhood after living on Long Island for so long. The house in Port Washington had been her dream, the kind you’d see on holiday cards and Good Housekeeping spreads, every window dressed up in garlands and sparkling lights during the holidays, straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Watching her pack up their things because they couldn’t afford to stay had taken something out of him. It had been his fault. His slump. His failure. His work.

Caroline searched his face for some sort of answer. Lucas tried to stare back at her with a semblance of confidence, because this was the Big Idea, the book that would get him back in the game, the very thing he needed to redeem himself, to feel like a man who hadn’t let his family down, who hadn’t lost his wife to some Ivy League townie turned corporate sheep.

“I can’t leave my job,” she said. “I’ve got that conference. They’ve already booked my flight.”

Rome. They had visited a few years before Jeanie was born and had left unimpressed. It was crowded and dirty. The monuments looked as though they were part of some weird Roman theme park. The cafés wouldn’t let them sit without an exorbitant table service charge—the price of an espresso tripled if you wanted to pull up a chair. They had expected one of the most romantic cities in all the world, but what they got was a bad taste in their mouths. Back then, it had been nothing short of disappointing. Now, Lucas could see the irony of the metaphor. The life they had expected wasn’t the one they got.

And yet, the moment Caroline learned her company was flying her to Rome to broker a deal, she was giddy with excitement, as though she’d forgotten all about that unfulfilling vacation. Then again, Kurt Murphy was also going; the other man, who resembled a young, Interview with the Vampire Brad Pitt. The moment Caroline had announced her trip, Lucas pictured Kurt screwing her against a pillar of the Pantheon. He imagined them riding around the Colosseum on a fucking Vespa. He saw sundae dishes holding melted gelato, empty wine bottles, and half-eaten plates of pasta littering the kind of Roman hotel room he’d never be able to afford. Kurt was the brokerage’s key player. Over the years, dozens of people had lost their jobs so that Kurt Murphy could continue to buy overpriced champagne.

Fuck Kurt Murphy, he thought, only to have his follow-up thought assure him that, Oh, don’t worry, pal, she intends to.

“Why can’t you just write it here?”

Because that wasn’t the deal.

“Because I have to do interviews.”

“So fly out there and do them.”

“It isn’t that easy. We’re talking about a supermax. I can only get in there once a week, maybe for two hours a pop, and that’s if I’m lucky. Flying back and forth will cost us money we don’t have.”

Caroline was unimpressed.

“That, and I just need to be there,” he reminded her. “You know that.”

Before Jeanie was born, Lucas had spent nearly six months in and around Los Angeles while Caroline stayed home in New York, but back then they had the cash. He flew to the East Coast every two or three weeks between researching the Night Stalker and the Black Dahlia cases. He could have done the research from anywhere, but there was something about being where the crimes had been committed, something about standing in the very spot a person had died. Wandering through the rooms of a house haunted by death. Seeing the details. Touching the wallpaper. Smelling the air. It ignited Lucas’s work like nothing else. Bloodthirsty Times: The Story of a Stalked L.A. had put him on the map. Lucas lent its success to having walked Richard Ramirez’s steps, to having seen the people, the places, the things Ramirez had experienced.

“Right,” Caroline said. “Research.” Ire peppered her tone.

“We can’t afford to pay the mortgage on this place and rent another. It’ll drain our savings.”

She rolled her eyes at the reminder. “I know that.”

“There’s always New Jersey,” he said quietly, deathly afraid of the response to suggesting she move back in with her parents.

Caroline openly scoffed. “Sell the house and shack up with Mom and Dad? Good idea.”

“There’s Trisha,” who yes, was a bitch, but that didn’t change the fact that she was Caroline’s sister and had a loft in Greenwich Village.

“Oh, sure, I’m supposed to impose on Trish. Me and a twelve-year-old in her tiny apartment? Not only do you want to uproot our lives, but other people’s lives, too?”

“Uproot her life how?” Lucas asked. “She owns a dog, for Christ’s sake.”

“Stop—”

“A dog,” he insisted. “A stupid little Chihuahua she dresses up in idiotic sweaters and treats like a baby because she has shit-all to do with herself. Having a houseguest would do her some good; it might even bring her back down to planet Earth.”

Caroline stared at him, as if stunned by his outburst.

“She’s crazy,” he said. “You know she’s crazy.”

“She’s my big sister,” Caroline snapped. “Just because you don’t like her . . .”

“Um, she’s the one who has it out for me.”

“Oh, please.” She waved a hand at him, dismissing the entire argument.

“She’d be thrilled to have you, Carrie. Just tell her you’ve finally decided to take her advice and leave me.”

The air left the room.

His own words made him go numb.

Caroline went silent again. The anger that had been nesting in the corners of her eyes was now replaced with sadness, with a pale shade of guilt.

Time to fess up.

“Look . . . I already found a house.” Or, Jeff Halcomb had. “I knew it would be stressful, so I just . . . I looked around and I found a place.” Liar. “It’s not expensive, and it’s right on the coast. Jeanie is going to love it.” As long as she didn’t find out what had happened there. He tried to keep the uncertainty out of his voice, but he was nervous, terrified that Caroline would say no. “I know you’re going on your trip and it’s really bad timing, I know all that. But I have to do this. I have a really good feeling about this project.” He may as well have had a guarantee. “Please, if this doesn’t work out, you have my word . . . I’ll go get a job at a newspaper.”

Caroline laughed outright. “Because business is booming at the New York Times. Right this way, Mr. Graham; we’ve all been waiting for you.”

“Okay, then I’ll go back to freelancing,” he insisted. “Hell, I don’t care. I’ll do whatever. But I have to take this shot. I can’t let this one go.” He’d already called Lambert Correctional Facility.

“Because John has convinced you this is The One,” she said flatly.

Because he’d already said yes.

“I know this is The One.” Even if John wasn’t a hundred percent behind him, Lucas was sure, more sure than he’d been about any other project in the past ten years. Writers had been trying to get Jeffrey Halcomb to talk for a generation about what had really happened in March 1983. A handful of shoddy biographies had been published on Halcomb, a couple on Audra Snow. None of them had been taken seriously because none of them could get any information out of Jeff. If Lucas just held up his end of the deal, he couldn’t lose . . . right?

But that was up to Caroline, who was going to derail everything, call the whole thing off—the Big Idea. Lucas folded his hands over his mouth, watching her the way an observer witnesses a particularly dangerous acrobatic act. It was a big jump, and neither of them had a safety net.

Finally, she squared her shoulders and breathed out a quiet sigh. “I think you should go,” she said. “Take Jeanie for the summer. It’ll be good for her to see someplace new.”

He furrowed his brow at her response, not grasping what she was saying.

“I’ll send for her a few weeks before school starts.”

“Carrie . . .”

She lifted a hand to quiet him. Stop, it said. Don’t talk.

“I love you, Lucas.”

His stomach dropped to his feet.

“But this . . .” She motioned around, as if to point out the imperfections of the kitchen. “We’ve been trying for a long time. Sometimes . . . enough is enough.”

Sometimes, people change.

His mouth went dry and he swayed where he sat.

There’s no going back.

The earth shuddered beneath him with pent-up grief.

His mind reeled as he tried to think of something to say, some perfect sentence that would stop Caroline in her tracks, make her reconsider. He’d apologize a million times, promise her the moon. The lyrics to the song he used to sing to her unspooled inside his head. He would say he’s sorry if he thought that it would change her mind. The Cure. He and Caroline so much younger. The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday followed by terrible Mexican food. A closet full of all-black clothes dappled by a splash of Caroline’s blues and grays. Combat boots that reached for his knees; twenty eyelets Caroline would walk her fingers up laced tight across his calves. He’d made love to her with his boots on so many times, all because they had taken too damn long to pull off his feet. And then they had grown up, become adults. Those boots were now exiled to the back of the closet, and every time Caroline caught a glimpse of them, she wondered aloud why he didn’t put them up for sale on eBay. Forget the past. All of that was behind them. But he wouldn’t sell them. They reminded him of the way she’d dance in the passenger seat of his shitty hatchback every time “Enjoy the Silence” came on the radio; he’d never part with them because they encompassed the essence of his own sullen, subdued spirit. Regardless of what she’d become, his once-upon-a-time girl was tangled up in those endlessly long bootlaces.

But these days, he didn’t need those boots to remind him of his brooding, reckless youth. He saw it every time he looked at his kid. Jeanie was already teetering on the edge of teenage angst. If he and Caroline split up, what would become of his little girl? Lucas shook his head as if to reject his wife’s words. He’d pretend she’d never said them, forget she’d ever suggested going to Washington on his own. But all he could manage was a nearly inaudible “no,” so soundless that it failed to register with her at all.

“Use the savings, get the place. If you use more than half your share, pay me back after you get a deal.”

Her image went wavy, like the horizon shivering with heat.

“I’ll talk to Jeanie,” Caroline said. “Explain what’s going on.”

She turned to leave the kitchen, her mug cupped in her hands. She paused just before stepping into the hall, and for a second Lucas was sure she had changed her mind. They had been together for too long. They had a daughter, a life. A history far too precious to throw away. But rather than retracting her words, Caroline shook her head and stepped out of sight.

Lucas white-knuckled the edge of the counter. It was all he could do to keep himself from screaming.

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Within These Walls 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brother is still my favorite
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her book Brother was much better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From start to finish couldnt put it down, ending was spectacular!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just can't use or think of another word to describe this book. I couldn't put it down. My husband will be glad I finished it so I can get on with real life...lol.
Skuldren More than 1 year ago
Within These Walls is a pretty decent horror novel with a nice touch of creepiness to make you see and hear things at night while reading it. Written by author Ania Ahlborn, the book takes place in the state of Washington in a remote house near the beach. A true crime author takes a gamble by moving across the country to this quaint little house in pursuit of a story that will save his career and his marriage. He’s been given the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to interview an incarcerated cult serial killer who has never been interviewed before. It’s a chance to get the real story, a guaranteed bestseller, and all he has to do is live in the house where the grisly murders took place. What seems like a great opportunity turns into a nightmare. All in all, the story does a lot of things right. Ania Ahlborn does a good job of making the book creepy and capturing the sinister element of the ghosts and the house they inhabit. The book follows the frayed journey of the true crime author, Lucas Graham, as he drags his young daughter across the country to go live in a house where people were murdered as part of a strange ritual. His marriage has already imploded and his career is dying. This is his last chance to make everything right, and he’s desperate to do whatever it takes. That desperation comes through loud and clear with the characterization in the book. Yet his story is balanced out by his twelve year old daughter Virginia. For her, her life is going down a spiral as divorce is imminent for her parents. Being dragged across the country for the summer means she won’t get to see her friends or the boy she has a crush on. Thinking of the future, everything seems glum and doomed. But those small worries are soon eclipsed by the immediate threat of the house she’s been brought to. Unlike her dad, she believes in ghosts, so when she starts seeing things, she doesn’t deny it. Instead, she pursues it. With Lucas researching the bloody murders and his daughter speaking to the ghosts of the past, it’s a bad combination that makes everything worse. Running throughout the story, we also get the tale of Audra Snow, one of the victims of the ritual suicide. That storythread adds a great dynamic to the story as we get to find out what really happened. It also establishes a bond for the reader with one of the victims. We get to see what her life was like, how should wound up with this cult, and how it all went wrong. Knowing that these people she wound up with will kill her makes it that much more tragic. You know what will happen and you’re dragged along for the ride. There’s also snippets of letters, news reports, police reports and paranormal investigations that are sprinkled throughout the book to give readers an idea of the history of the house and the events that happened. With all those factors combined, it makes for a neat and creepy story. It’s not without some flaws, though. I had some trouble with the main character, Lucas, as he has a really bad habit of not talking to people. Toward the end of the book, Lucas and his daughter Virginia also start making some really dumb decisions which is also annoying. On top of that, there’s some repetition that creeps in two-thirds of the way through the book. It gets a little muddled. That said, the first half of the book has a good run, and the ending is worthwhile enough to make the book overall a good read.
Zaelyn More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was my first venture into Ania Ahlborn's writing and it really gave me a good feeling about what was to come. Since reading this book I have ventured into reading more of her work and I have enjoyed every word along the way. Definitely an author and a book to check out if you are a horror fanatic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is terrific for anyone who was interested in the Manson cult. There are some similarities in the cult aspect of the groups but the end result is much different. I really enjoyed the book and did not want to put it down.
Feathered_Quill1 More than 1 year ago
Ania Ahlborn delivers a body of work guaranteed to deliver goose-bumps and then some in her latest thriller, Within These Walls. There are no do-overs left for Lucas (Lou) Graham. Once upon a time he was the New York Times It guy when it came to spinning true crimes that soared to the top of the charts soon after they were released. What goes up, however, must come down and it just so happens Lou was out of parachutes and his landing was hard. Who knew true crime interest would take such a fall? It’s been ten years and his agent may still be on the line...he just doesn’t rush to answer the phone anymore. To add to Lou’s misery, he’s pretty sure his wife Caroline is having an affair with her boss. It’s easier to live in the denial over this notion than face the situation head on. There’s not much more Lou can lose. When diabolical cult leader and mass murderer Jeffrey Halcomb reaches out to Lou from his maximum security prison cell, maybe things are looking up after all. It would seem Halcomb has decided to break his decades old silence and has chosen Lou to write his tell-all story of just exactly why he did what he did. Summer is here and the time is right for Lucas and his thirteen-year-old daughter to leave their New York digs behind. Did he mention this minor detail to wife Caroline? No matter. It seems the one caveat Halcomb was quite specific in Lou getting his exclusive would require him to relocate to the coast of Washington State. Not only did he have to relocate, but he had to agree to live in the house where the murders occurred. It is then and only then, that Halcomb will agree to meet with Lou live and in the flesh. With a story like this to write, Lou was already salivating over securing his familiar place on the New York Times after so many years absent. What he didn’t realize was once in, there was no turning back along with the personal sacrifices and losses he was about to face... Ania Ahlborn has what it takes to deliver a spine-chilling, keep your night light on at night thriller! Within These Walls takes off on page one and the acceleration and intrigue continues to torque throughout. I found myself often comparing Ms. Ahlborn’s work to that of two iconic masters: Stephen King and Dean Koontz, the early years. Ahlborn has developed an incredibly balanced blend of creepy with a complement of paranormal activity that keeps the reader engaged. There is a nuance of Charlie Manson lurking between the lines, but her character Halcomb brings even Manson’s fright-fest to a whole new level. She has an innate ability to set up a scene with stylistic excellence and does so often throughout which, having not had the pleasure of reading any of her previous work, I would surmise is truly not only her strength, but her signature as well. Just when the reader may think the story has reached its pinnacle moment (and the author will begin to bring it on home), Ahlborn sets her chill meter a little higher and the twists and turns to this story throw the reader forward into another quandary of fear. Well done Ms. Ahlborn! This is a great read and I look forward to your next book. Quill says: Within these Walls will have you checking under your bed and without a doubt, makes the ‘boogeyman’ pale in comparison!
eternalised More than 1 year ago
Within These Walls is my first read by Ania Ahlborn, apparently a bestselling sensation (which I didn’t know when I picked up this book – I did that solely based on the description) but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. The book offers enough interesting twists, and the characters are intriguing enough to warrant reading another book by this author. Lucas Graham, our main character, is a true crime writer who’s been struggling for years. First, with his career. He wrote a major bestseller decades ago, but ever since, he hasn’t quite reached that fame. His marriage is as good as over, with his wife even having an affair with another man. His daughter is angry about her parents breaking up, and about him moving her from New York to a small, beach-side village in Washington State. But Lucas has no choice: he got an offer he simply couldn’t refuse. An offer that could turn his nightmare of a life back into a beautiful dream, that could repair his career, mend his relationship with his wife, and basically, change everything. Jeffrey Halcomb, leader of a cult popular in the seventies, agreed to do an interview. Halcomb has never allowed anyone to interview him before, so if Lucas gets to do the interviews and writes a book about it, he’s guaranteed a spot on the bestselling list. There’s only one catch. Lucas has to move into the property Halcomb and his followers lived in, before they committed suicide and Halcomb killed a girl and her unborn baby. Right in the living room of the house Lucas and his teenage daughter are about to live in. The book combines psychological and supernatural terror, and does so rather well. The author takes a long time to set the scene, almost too long. I don’t mind giving the reader ample time to get to know the characters, but here the plot almost dragged on, especially toward the end when I just wanted to know what would happen and when the big climax would be. The book also has several flashbacks, which gave an interesting perspective on the events that unfolded with Halcomb and his followers thirty-something years ago. If it wasn’t for the pacing being so slow, I probably would’ve enjoyed this more. Also, when the horror hits, somehow it never reaches the level of terror I’d anticipated and hoped for. It’s all rather bland at the end. Jeffrey Halcomb is by far the most interesting of all characters, yet he doesn’t get a POV, although Lucas and his teen daughter, Vee, do. The ending had a few surprises though, and I ended up with a rather pleasant feeling about this read. I wasn’t scared – not in the slightest – but it was entertaining and offered nice twists on some common tropes (like the Satanic cult, enigmatic cult leader, Satanic rituals, house haunted by crimes of the past, and so on). If you like horror that combines the psychological and supernatural, and you don’t mind a slow pace, I’d recommend this one. The plot and characters make for an entertaining read, but you might struggle through some of the 400+ pages. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars Ania Ahlborn's Within These Walls is a fun take on the haunted house tale. Unfortunately, it has two major flaws which prevent me from recommending it without reservation. The first is all of the parallels between Ahlborn's fictional cult leader Jeffrey Halcomb and real-life serial killer Charles Manson. Ahlborn openly acknowledges Halcomb's similarity to Manson, perhaps intending to forestall criticism on the ground of lack of originality, but the similarities kept pulling me out of her story; as each detail of Halcomb's "Family" was revealed, I had to forcibly restrain myself from grabbing my copy of Helter Skelter to see if that detail had been drawn from the Manson Family. The second is all of the loose ends left unresolved at the end of the book. Some of those threads were relatively minor, but others went to the very heart of the plot.  Although I liked the book's ending, I just didn't understand how Ahlborn had gotten me there. I received a free copy of Within These Walls through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
This was his big break, or so he thought. His marriage was in shambles and his daughter needed a father because the one she had, lived for his job. This summer, he thought he could reclaim the parts of himself that was missing. Alone with his daughter, he thought he could become the father that she needed while at the same time writing a bestselling novel, this would set him back on track. Wishful thinking on his part and naive in the way he handles the situation. Lucas travels with his daughter Vee to a new city to begin his new assignment. Setting up house with his daughter in a residence where a multiple homicide occurred years ago immediately has me on edge. Immediately, strange incidents and vibes occur as the father and daughter start to get familiar with their surroundings. There were stipulations on Lucas’s new novel and he struggles as he attempts to gain knowledge of this notorious criminal who is locked away in prison. As Lucas begins the writing process, he’s a bit soft to be writing such an intense book based on murder and power. Lucas begins to understand when to play his cards. He slowly learns how to play people to get what he wants and how to man-up to show them actually who they are playing against. He’s really done it since moving into the house. He’s jeopardized his own child now. He’s brought his daughter into his work, it becomes a pressing issue. This house which they are now a part of has its own agenda and the past is now mixing with the present. Every house has a past; they all contain the stories of the individuals whose lives have passed through their doors. But this house that they have become a part of, contains much more than just memories, it now contains a part of them. I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey
tpolen More than 1 year ago
Let me start by saying this is by far the best horror story I've read in quite some time. I've heard nothing but good things about this author, but this is the first book of hers I've had the opportunity to read - and I plan on getting to the others.  Just when I thought I had things figured out - I was proven wrong by some unexpected twist, turn, or surprise.  The following is a peek into my head while reading this book: "Oh, I see where this is going....wait...what?....Okay, it's obvious what's going to hap...um... didn't see that coming." And I love it when books can surprise me that way.  While reading this book, it's almost impossible not to make comparisons to Charles Manson, and he's mentioned a few times during this story but, although he and Jeffrey Halcomb have some things in common, don't assume this book is just a retelling of that story.  Far from it. The shifts between past and present with revolving POVs between Lucas, his daughter, and a Halcomb victim gave a more well-rounded picture of the true nature of Halcomb and tied the story together at the end.  The characterization was exceptional - I initially felt sorry for Lucas while he watched his life fall apart, but as his character evolved throughout the story, I really began to dislike him and wanted to smack him a few times. Within These Walls certainly isn't lacking in creepy atmosphere or tension and is a complex blend of a haunted house, mystery, and thriller all tied up in a compelling and engaging package.  I highly recommend it to horror/thriller fans. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.