The House of Twelve by Sean Davies will deceive the reader many times. The idea seems familiar. Twelve people wake up in a house but can’t remember how they got there. They don’t know each other and can’t figure out a connection that will tie them together. It is almost as if they had been drugged, kidnapped, and imprisoned in one house. That they were imprisoned is obvious from many indicators. Doors are steel, reinforced, and locked. Where there should be windows, the glass has been replaced by thick constructions of brick. And on a coffee table in the living room, there is a document with House Rules. The first one says they will never be allowed to escape, the second rations the food and water, and the third relates to their imminent deaths. There is constant background music; think elevator music. Each evening at 2300 the music will stop, and one person must die. The victim can die by suicide or be killed by others. If no selection or volunteer happens before 2400, gas will kill all of them.
But there is a chance for escape, and it is contained in one sentence. “Redemption is the key to escape.” (Kindle Locations 147-148). This sentence will appear in many chapters of the book. Chapters are labeled Day 1, Day 2, and so on up to Day Twelve. There are twelve people trapped in the house. By Chapter Two, if not before, it should be apparent to the reader that all inhabitants have a fatal flaw. They have done something in their past lives and the only escape from the house will be to admit their wrongdoings and receive redemption. To aid them in this, some entity, perhaps the house and perhaps their own locked memories, fuel their dreams each night. The victims can revisit elements of transgressions that sentenced them to the house. But only if there is some admission of guilt will an entire crime or bad action be revealed. And even after that, the resident must accept that past actions were wrongful.
While the twelve are going through their dreams there is the pesky requirement that one person must die each day. Some residents will deal with this by drinking the helpfully provided alcohol. Some will seek solitude in one of the various rooms available in the house. Some will hook up for sex. And some will actively seek a means of escape. All will puzzle over how they can get redemption.
Obviously, the story is character driven. In the beginning, the reader will have to face twelve characters, each with at least a limited backstory and this can be annoying. But just like there is an ever-increasing supply of food and drink in the house as the population dwindles, the reader’s headache over remembering character will subside as the number of residents becomes fewer.
There are several clues as to how the novel will end about midway through the novel. But none is as important as the one given in the House Rules and presented in Day One. Mystery fans should appreciate the fun in interpreting the phrase correctly before the resident prisoners if even the prisoners are able to do so. This is a four plus Amazon star rating. I was alerted to the novel by Voracious Readers Only and could have gotten a free copy for review from the author. I thought it was good enough to buy from Amazon at USD 0.99. I will read more from this author.