The Pale House Devil by Richard Kadrey horror book reviewsThe Pale House Devil by Richard Kadrey horror book reviewsThe Pale House Devil by Richard Kadrey

The demon who inhabits Pale House in Richard Kadrey’s 2023 novella The Pale House Devil is the star of the show for me. Part of this short, fairly fast-paced story is centered in its point of view, and it is one fascinating, confounding creature. It also has a habit of eating people, so… that’s bad.

In this short outing, Kadrey introduces us to Ford and Neuland, paranormal mercenaries. Ford seems to be a more or less regular human with skills in magic, while Neuland is undead, a Marcheur as he calls himself. When a job in New York goes wrong, the duo hightails it to the west coast, eventually to the San Francisco Bay Area, where a woman named Tilda hires them to exorcise something from a rich man’s house the north central valley. Tilda’s connection to the rich man is something of a mystery, and so is the man himself—and then there’s the thing inside the former family home, Pale House.

Kadrey excels at snappy dialogue, and that is this story’s strength. Shepherd Mansfield, the rich owner of Pale House, is truly vile, and both Ford and Neuland bristle at how he treats Tilda, but soon enough they are distracted, to put it mildly, by the demon in the house.

Novellas require compression of a story, and often elements that make reading richer are put aside or given short shrift. In this case, vivid imagery and magical action take center stage, at the expense of characterization. Neuland gets a backstory, and it’s interesting, but Ford is closer to a type—a wisecracking killer with ideals. Tilda was a disappointment in the first half of the book, but when circumstances demanded, she improved in the second half.

The imagery, and the conception of the demon, a kind of interdimensional traveler, stand out, and Kadrey’s always-clever banter moves the story along. It works pretty well as an origin story, if that’s Kadrey’s intent, and yet it is a stand-alone story.

This one will please Kadrey completists. It’s a quick, gory, scary read.

Published in October 2023. A gripping, snappy creature feature from the master of horror noir about two detectives—one dead, one living—hired by an embittered old landowner to banish a bloody cosmic monster from his ancestral home, perfect for fans of Cassandra Khaw, Charles Stross and Lucy A. Snyder. Ford and Neuland are paranormal mercenaries—one living, one undead; one of them kills the undead, the other kills the living. When a job goes bad in New York, they head west to wait for the heat to cool down. There, a young woman named Tilda Rosenbloom hires them on behalf of wealthy landowner, Shepherd Mansfield, to track and kill a demon haunting a mansion in remote northern California. As Ford and Neuland investigate the creature they uncover a legacy of blood, sacrifice and slavery in the house. Forced to confront a powerful creature unlike anything they’ve faced before, they come to learn that the most frightening monster might not be the one they’re hunting…


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.