Review: 'The Residence,' by Andrew Pyper

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"The Residence" by Andrew Pyper - Skybound Books/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

“The Residence” by Andrew Pyper; Skybound Books (352 pages, $26)

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A deep evil lurks in the White House.

Politics aside, we’re not referring to present-day Washington, D.C., but the presidency under Franklin Pierce, from 1853 to 1857. This was a period of great sadness in the presidential residence, history tells us. Author Andrew Pyper takes the known facts a step further with this dramatic horror novel based on true events of the time.

Pierce and his wife, Jane, are having difficulties because, when nominated, Pierce had promised her there was no chance he would be elected president. Voters disagreed in a landslide victory. The reluctant Pierces were off to the White House.

The frail and somber Jane had lost two sons already, one just after birth and the other to typhus. She had only young Bennie to love now.

As the family takes the train to Concord, a sudden derailment sends little Bennie flying. Train cars roll down a hillside. Bennie does not survive.

But the accident is no surprise to Jane, who is haunted by a malevolent voice that has told her: “All the boys will die and the women broken.”

In Pierce’s victory, the dark spirit has made it inside the White House, where he wreaks terror and havoc on the family and the staff. Far older apparitions, such as the benevolent spirits of slaves who built the White House, watch in fear.

The encounter with the spirits, and the way the Pierces deal with it once and for all, feeds into history’s stories of ghosts and evil in the White House. It’s a fascinating blend of truth and speculation, and as Halloween approaches (not to mention the presidential election), readers are likely to feel a timely shock to their senses.

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©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)