Based on true events, this horror story recounts what may be the real-life haunting of the White House during the rule of 14th U.S. President Franklin Pierce—when the death of Pierce's young son sent a grief-stricken First Lady to Spiritualists, who may have unwittingly welcomed an evil presence into the residence.
Pyper’s style is just so aggressive here, displaying his weapons early and daring us not to be struck by them. That the gambit is largely successful owes much to Pyper’s craftsmanship. His horrors are well-constructed; they find ready anchors in the historical details he provides, and strong engines in the prose Pyper wields. Beautiful prose is the calling card of any Pyper novel, and it is on full display here ... Though the dramatic tension is tempered by our knowledge that the President and First Lady will survive their ordeal, The Residence has moments of real dread ... Strong characterization also fuels the narrative ... The Residence does good work in its study of grief ... Pyper gives us not only an effective and engaging historical horror novel; but a fable that does us the compliment of assigning some portion of the blame for the darker parts of American history to forces beyond our control.
I expected The Residence to be a slow-burn of a ghost story with some supernatural elements making their presence known during Pierce’s presidency. I was not prepared for the nonstop terror that Andrew Pyper has penned, making for one of the most haunting and disturbing reads that I have experienced in quite some time. What really has stuck with me is the author’s note, which points out some key elements of Pierce’s time at the White House that are unexplained, in addition to a long and storied history of future presidents and the personal experiences they had with the unknown presences that may still exist within its corridors.
Pyper weaves traditional—and legitimately creepy—horror tropes with a larger examination of the complexities of marriage, and to a lesser degree, the direction and morality of the country at the time of its impending split. Recommended for fans of historical fiction with a bite, like that of Alma Katsu.