Beneath the Stairs

Jennifer Fawcett

Quick Synopsis

A woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Publisher’s Synopsis

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Book Review

Beneath the Stairs is a debut horror novel about a creepy, dilapidated house deep in the woods where strange things have occurred in the past, including a family murdered. As teenage girls, a four friends fueled by curiosity and peer pressure enter the house… and two leave forever changed. Themes of guilt, grief, and friendship are woven into the storyline as well.

I am so happy to FINALLY have read a well-executed haunted house story. Beneath the Stairs is a suspenseful, atmospheric mystery. It takes a lot to creep me out and Jennifer Fawcett succeeded.

I found this book to be well-written. Beneath the Stairs is a bit more character-driven than your average suspense or horror book. It is told through four timelines – one for each of the house’s occupants, one for the protagonist’s childhood, and one for present day. Despite this, I found it pretty easy to follow. The story has some “coming of age” vibes without it feeling YA. While Beneath the Stairs is a slow-ish burn, it worked for me. I never lost interest and did not want to go to sleep before finishing it.

For a majority of this book, I planned on giving Beneath the Stairs five stars. However, the last 50 pages or so dropped the book to four stars. Instead of having a crisp ending once the mystery was solved, the book continued. Fawcett packs into the ending an unnecessary love arc and focuses on the characters, taking away from the otherwise spooky story. I found these things unnecessary and distracting.

Overall, I really enjoyed Beneath the Stairs and would recommend it. In fact, skip Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark, and pick Beneath the Stairs up instead. I promise it is 1,000 times better, unless you scare easily.


Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Character development

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Beneath the Stairs



Publication Date
February 22, 2022


Storygraph Rating
3.83 stars

Goodreads Rating
3.88 stars

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Note: I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher, Atria Books. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.

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