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Christina Henry | Exclusive Excerpt: THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT

The House That Horror Built
Christina Henry




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May 2024
On Sale: May 14, 2024
320 pages
ISBN: 0593638212
EAN: 9780593638217
Kindle: B0CFPKP9PF
Trade Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Christina Henry:
The House That Horror Built, May 2024
Add to review list
Alice, April 2024
Good Girls Don't Die, November 2023
Horseman, October 2021


“Are you feeling well?” Mr. Castillo asked.

“Hm?” Harry asked, her brain one million miles from her current location.

“Are you feeling well?” he repeated. “You seem very distracted today. I thought you might be unwell.”

Harry was sure she did a terrible job keeping the shock off her face. Mr. Castillo had never before appeared to notice her mood, or even notice her beyond her value as a human dust remover.

He frowned at her now, his own duster in hand, his slightly-too-small maroon sweater bunching up around the roll just above his trouser belt. Harry never saw him in casual clothes, and since she vacuumed inside his closet she knew he didn’t own any. Not a sweatshirt or jeans or a ratty pair of sneakers in sight.

The crinkled line between his eyes became more pronounced and she realized she hadn’t actually answered his question.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and I’m a little out of it.”

That much, at least, was true. She hadn’t slept except in fitful snatches the night before, or the night before that. When she closed her eyes she saw the lines of the letter Ted Howell Jr. had sent, the stark, unrelenting cruelty of them. Worse, she’d replay the humiliating conversation they’d had after she’d worked up the nerve to call him.

Mr. Castillo’s lips moved and she realized he was talking again. She forced herself to concentrate on him, to make sense of the noise emitting from his mouth.

“ . . . cup of coffee in the kitchen. There are some blueberry muffins as well. Did you eat breakfast?”

Harry shook her head. She’d barely eaten a thing the last two days. It was hard to think about food when there was a cold knot in her stomach that never loosened, taking up all the space where a meal should go.

“Have something to eat and a cup of coffee and come back in twenty minutes. I will have finished the shelves on this side by then.”

They were in the big library, which housed not only Mr. Castillo’s special editions—rare and collectible volumes, many of them perfectly preserved or restored—but many smaller props from film sets—the gold box from Cronos, the Necronomicon from Army of Darkness, Sweeney Todd’s silver-chased blades.

These were the props that Harry liked, things from the films she loved that didn’t seem to have agency or personality like the costumes and puppets on the upper floor. They were just incredibly cool objects, and she would marvel that she got to touch them even with gloves.

Today she’d barely noticed what she touched, though her hands had moved automatically through her tasks. She didn’t know what she was going to do, and worrying about it took up every cell of her body.

“Go on, go on,” Mr. Castillo said as she stood in a stupor. He made a hurry along gesture with his arms. “Eat something, drink coffee. You’ll feel better.”

Harry nodded and moved toward the kitchen like a sleepwalker, unsure what to say or do in the face of Mr. Castillo’s sudden gesture of humanity. He usually treated her like an automaton, a cleaning robot that arrived at his home at ten a.m. and left at five p.m. three days a week. He wasn’t unkind; he just wasn’t familiar. He didn’t make idle chitchat. He didn’t invite confidences.

Harry understood why. The press, she knew, had been very intrusive after the tragedy. And Mr. Castillo had made it clear that their relationship was a professional one, even though—or perhaps especially because—she was in his house and among his things.

Now he was telling her take a break—a break, a thing she’d never been offered before. Mr. Castillo didn’t seem to think breaks were necessary things. He never appeared to take one himself. Normally the only time Harry was able to sit down was at lunch.

I must have been really out of it, Harry thought as she pushed open the door into the kitchen. It was one of those doors that had hinges that swung both ways, which always made Harry think of a housekeeper carrying a tray of dishes, nudging the door open with her hip.

The kitchen itself looked like it belonged to another house, like it had been dropped in Bright Horses by aliens who’d missed their correct stop. The furniture throughout the rest of the house was heavy and dark, with brocaded fabrics and thick curtains and old-fashioned wallpaper all around. The rooms gave off the impression of cobwebs and dust even though everything was spotlessly clean.

But the kitchen was like a display model for a new condo showing. White cabinets, subzero refrigerator, Wolf oven and range, chrome appliances, marble countertops. It was an entertainer’s kitchen, the kind of room made for someone who loved to cook, who loved to arrange plates of food just so and carry them out to guests who oohed and aahed. It was incongruous with Mr. Castillo’s hermit-like nature, just like the guest rooms that were always prepared for anyone who might drop in.

She wondered if these habits were a remnant from his life before, when he did throw parties and have guests stay at his home. Now the beautiful kitchen and the fresh sheets on the beds were phantom limbs, memories of a life he couldn’t feel properly any longer.

Harry made a cup of dark roast coffee. Mr. Castillo had one of those pod machines that she considered too expensive and wasteful. She didn’t think the coffee tasted that great, but it was better than the instant she kept at home.

She found a basket of muffins on the counter and took one, eating it while standing over the sink. Harry wondered who baked the muffins. It was hard to picture Mr. Castillo with an apron over his nice trousers, surrounded by flour and butter and sugar, splatters of blueberry juice on his hands.

Perhaps he had a cook who only came in when Harry wasn’t around, a cook who kept all the surfaces gleaming, because Harry found there was never much for her to clean.

She heard a muffled thud from the other room, a thud that reminded her of the room upstairs.

(And I never clean that room at the end of the hall on the third floor but there’s nothing sinister about it and there’s no one being kept in that room against their will, definitely not.)

Thinking about the locked door upstairs made Harry feel sick, made the muffin she’d just swallowed catch in her throat.


Excerpted from The House That Horror Built by Christina Henry Copyright © 2024 by Christina Henry. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


The House That Horror Built

Harry Adams has always loved horror movies, so it’s not a total coincidence that she took the job cleaning house for movie director Javier Castillo. His forbidding graystone Chicago mansion, Bright Horses, is filled from top to bottom with terrifying props and costumes, as well as glittering awards from his career making films that thrilled audiences—until family tragedy and scandal forced him to vanish from the industry.

Javier values discretion, and Harry has always tried to clean the house immaculately, keep her head down, and keep her job safe—she needs the money to support her son. But then she starts hearing noises from behind a locked door. Noises that sound remarkably like a human voice calling for help, even though Javier lives alone and never has visitors. Harry knows that not asking questions is a vital part of working for Javier, but she soon finds that the sinister house may be home to secrets she can’t ignore.


Fantasy Dark | Paranormal [Berkley, On Sale: May 14, 2024, Trade Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780593638217 / ]

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About Christina Henry

Christina Henry

CHRISTINA HENRY is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurais, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

Chronicles of Alice | The Chronicles of Alice





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