A small-time criminal. A has-been rock star. A shadowy government agency. And a severed hand whose dark powers threaten to destroy them all.
When leg-breaker Hutch Holtz rolls up to a rundown apartment complex in Portland, Oregon, to collect overdue drug money, a severed hand is the last thing he expects to find stashed in the client’s refrigerator. Hutch quickly realizes that the hand induces uncontrollable madness: Anyone in its proximity is overcome with a boundless compulsion for violence. Within hours, catastrophic forces are set into motion: Dark-op government agents who have been desperately hunting for the hand are on Hutch’s tail, more of the city’s residents fall under its brutal influence, and suddenly all of Portland stands at the precipice of disaster. . . .
But it’s all the same for Katherine Moriarty, a singer whose sudden fame and precipitous downfall were followed by the mysterious death of her estranged husband—suicide, allegedly. Her trauma has made her agoraphobic, shackled within the confines of her apartment. Her son, Nick, has moved home to care for her, quietly making his living working for Hutch’s boss.
When Hutch calls Nick in distress, looking for someone else to take the hand, Katherine and Nick are plunged into a global struggle that will decimate the walls of the carefully arranged life they’ve built. Mother and son must evade both crazed, bloodthirsty masses and deceitful government agents while exorcising family secrets that have risen from the dead—secrets, they soon discover, that might hold the very key to humanity’s survival.
In trying to determine the best way to begin this review, I can’t help but think of those TV infomercials that try to sell a product based on all its features. In the case of Fever House by Keith Rosson, this book has EVERYTHING! Hitmen! Cursed severed body parts! Sketchy government agencies! A pair of dysfunctional government agents! The son of a rock star! And so much more! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The discovery of a severed hand by Hutch Holtz in a Wonder Bread bag proves to be the linchpin for a series of catastrophic events. Almost as though we are immersed in a game of cat-and-mouse, this cursed hand flounders through numerous characters’ possessions as each person has their own agenda. The only individual with seemingly no ulterior motives is Nick Coffin, the son of former rock stars Katherine Moriarty and Matthew Coffin, members of the band The Blank Letters. Nevertheless, Nick and Katherine find themselves deeply entwined in the grasp of the hand, struggling to make sense of its function and ultimately survive.
Fever House is a very intricate, captivating book with numerous characters, subplots, and mystery. As always, I want to avoid spoilers so please forgive any vagueness this review may have. In a convergence of gritty crime and grotesque horror, Rosson has created a complex world of unknown evils and shadowy government conspiracies. Factoring in Katherine’s time with The Blank Pages, the elements of a rock’n’roll tell-all can be found in these pages as well. Fever House is a mashup of The X Files, Daisy Jones and the Six, and Wayward Pines. With all of these things incorporated, you can imagine how easy it is to get lost in all these differing perspectives and conflicts. Yet, Rosson seamlessly weaves these contrasting plot points into an epic saga, one that shall continue in 2024.
In addition to making these differing pieces fit together so well, Rosson’s unique voice is something worthy of note; within the pages of Fever House, a certain cadence and rhythm can be found. The dialogue flows freely and comes to life with an authenticity that makes you feel like you’re overhearing this zany tale in a bar. This makes for a very pleasurable reading experience in addition to helping build a repertoire of sorts between characters. In addition to this effortless style of writing, we are privy to government documents and other forms of intel connected to this shadowy government agency that I will not be discussing in detail. In doing so, readers are immersed in the story, feeling as though we’re being let in on the big secret in an otherwise busy plot.
In a cast of deeply explored characters, Samantha Weils may just be one of my new favorite, complex, morally-gray female characters I have come across. Begrudgingly partnered with John Bonner, Weils appears to be a ruthless woman made to execute orders without hesitation. For the first half of the novel, the bits we see of her are meant to make us look away in disgust. She’s the epitome of violence and cruelty until we are exposed to her background and the reasons why she’s in the position she is. While Rosson does this with many of his characters, my interest is most invested in Weils by far given the span of her character development. This unique characterization serves to add depth to an already action-packed plot only enriching an already captivating tale.
Despite all the hell unleashed with this novel, many points of conflict are resolved or are at least pointing towards explanation in the much-anticipated sequel, The Devil by Name. The ability to wrangle as many loose ends as possible in addition to dropping a few plot twists is truly remarkable given how much happens within the span of these 448 pages. This story truly shines in its combination of genres and intricate characterizations in an otherwise involved plot. Above all, I had so much damn fun. The effects of the hand and the history behind its origins prove to land on solid horror territory while still balancing the delicacy of drama and grit associated with crime thrillers. In true fashion, Fever House casts a spell of intrigue based on unrelenting gore, action, and suspense that is not only frightening but also wildly entertaining.