The House Next Door is a not-so-typical Haunted House novel by Anne Rivers Siddons, a notable departure for an author otherwise known for her novels of upper-middle-class family drama.
Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live placidly in a quiet, upscale suburb full of quiet, upscale neighbors. Here, everyone lives in everyone's back pocket, everyone knows everyone's business, and everyone is too comfortable to make waves. "We've never stuck our necks out for anyone," Walter complains. The biggest scandal to hit the neighborhood for years is the introduction of a huge, modern-styled house in the long-vacant woodlot adjacent to the Kennedys. Colquitt is prepared to hate the house next door, but once she finally sees it, she has to admit that it looks exactly as though it has always belonged there. Almost as if it were alive.
But even before anyone lives in it, the House Next Door is the scene of a tragedy that claims an innocent life. Colquitt and Walter watch in horror as three families in quick succession are driven to madness and murder shortly after moving in. They begin to suspect that something terrible lives in the House Next Door, something that will destroy everyone who ever lives there. As the only witnesses, Colquitt and Walter must decide if they will risk their reputations and lives to warn the world about the House Next Door, while suspecting it has enough power to reach beyond its own walls if anyone stands in its way.
The novel is noteworthy for being a story of a contemporary haunted house and has been referred to as "The Making of a Haunted House." It was made into a TV movie in 2006.
This book contains examples of:
- Affair? Blame the Bastard: Norman Greene demands total perfection and obedience from his daughter Melissa and often drives her to tears when she can't deliver. Claire learns that he's hard on Melissa because her mother Susan had her out of wedlock. Norman mistreats Melissa to punish Susan for her perceived infidelity (even though the kid was born well before Susan and Norman married).
- Ambiguously Gay: While there are rumors about Luke Abbott having an affair with his law clerk (a mostly-male profession in the 70s), these are never substantiated, and the house has no need of actual pre-existing attraction to force people into having sex (although it seems to like situations where attraction would be plausible, presumably to cause more pain; see Kim and Colquitt above). So it's not clear if Buddy and Luke are actually attracted to men or not.
- The Beautiful Elite: The whole neighborhood is quite well-off and seems to have more than its share of good-looking suburban housewives and handsome suit-and-tie husbands. Colquitt implies that it's only natural that success and beauty should be paired.
- Big Fancy House: The house is consistently described as stunning.
- The Cassandra: After watching the house destroy three families in a matter of months, Colquitt and Walter realize they have to warn the public. The unusual story makes national headlines, but no one really believes them and their neighbors think they're nuts.
- Convenient Miscarriage: While the neighbor women are initially sympathetic about Pie's miscarriage, they realize quickly that the tragedy might have been for the best, as she's so self-involved that it's barely a speedbump to her.
- Daddy's Girl: Pie, whose wealthy and doting father has the house built as a wedding present for his little girl.
- Dark-Skinned Redhead: While he's not an anime character, Kim has striking red hair and a deep tan from traveling to construction sites, and also possesses the requisite passionate, magnetic, bold personality.
- Demonic Possession: Of a strange kind: the house itself possesses its occupants, using their own fears and flaws to make them turn on each other.
- Diabolus ex Machina: Kim comes home. Poor Kim.
- The Dog Bites Back: The neighbors witness Norman Greene verbally and emotionally abuse his wife and child, and everyone suspects that behind closed doors, he's physically abusive, too. When shotguns blasts are heard in the night, all of them assume Norman finally went too far. Turns out it was his cowed, passive wife who got tired of the abuse and killed her husband, her daughter, and herself.
- Domestic Abuse: Norman Greene
- Downer Ending: Colquitt and Walter Kennedy become outcasts, lose their jobs, and end up killing Kim and burning down the house. The Kennedys lose everything (including by implication their lives), and they DON'T EVEN LIVE THERE. Worst of all, the ending implies that their sacrifice was All for Nothing, as one of Kim's blueprints still exists, and there are plans to build another of his houses.
- Electra Complex: Pie often pits her husband and her father against one another for her affection. Even the neighbors talk about "that weird thing [she] has with her father."
- The End... Or Is It?: In the epilogue, a young couple get the original blueprints from Kim's business partner, who is of course unaware the house is evil, and decide the design is just perfect...
- FaceHeel Turn: Colquitt's best friend Claire becomes involved in the house and turns on Colquitt, believing she's either vindictive or insane. She later has a Heel Realization when the House begins to act on her, just as Colquitt warned it would.
- Genius Loci: The house itself seems to be sentient enough to know when someone is plotting to destroy it. It also seems to have the power to compel people inside, and a limited ability to reach beyond its own borders to harm anyone it dislikes.
- Haunted House: Of an unusual kind. It's not built over cursed land, nor did anyone ever die there (until it killed them). Colquitt feels that the very idea of the house was powerful enough that it willed itself into existence.
- How We Got Here: The book opens with Colquitt stating that people as unremarkable as she and her husband don't end up on the cover of People magazine. The rest of the story explains how they did just that.
- In the Blood: Colquitt and Walter are horrified to discover that Kim, whom they've befriended, may be the unwitting agent of the evil that occupies the house. It turns out that all his previous architectural projects were cancelled due to bizarre tragedies, and it's implied that either he has a sinister power he's unaware of or that an evil force works through him.
- Kick the Dog: After the house nearly kills Pie Harralson, the first inhabitant, by making her miscarry, it starts horribly murdering wildlife, culminating with torturing her new setter puppy to death.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Absolutely everyone calls Pie "Pie" (short for "Punkin-Pie"). We never learn her real name.
- Mind Screw: There are no ghosts, no creaking stairs, no strange chills in the house. You will just have odd thoughts...
- The House uses these means to destroy the already-unstable Anita Sheehan. When she's alone, the House takes over her television set to show her images of her son's death, causing her husband to believe she's hallucinating things...until a neighbor sees it happen, too.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Horribly subverted. Even before the house is completed, the construction crew keeps finding an unusual amount of dead wildlife at the site. Later, the House Next Door has no qualms about murdering pets to send a message.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Colquitt and Walter burn down the House Next Door, but it's strongly implied they die in the attempt.
- Run or Die: When Claire realizes that the House really has power and is targeting her, she packs up her family, leaves all their possessions behind, and moves into a rental home across town to escape it. Note that Claire didn't even live in the House; she only visited.
- Spoiled Brat: Pie, who had both her wealthy daddy and her doting husband wrapped around her finger.
- Stacy's Mom: The neighborhood boys find Colquitt, a thirty-something married lady with no kids, to be extremely attractive. A neighbor's teenage son makes a forward remark about Colquitt's jeans looking as if they're painted on.
- Suburban Gothic: Takes place in a wealthy Atlanta suburb and involving a snazzy house that does nasty things to its inhabitants.
- The '70s: Reading between the lines, there's a lot of 1970s fashions and pop-culture references.
- Troubled, but Cute: Anita Sheehan is described as dramatically gorgeous, but her mental issues have left her thin, pale, and melancholy.
- Wrong Assumption:
- Claire believes that Colquitt is trying to ruin Claire's friendship with Susan Greene out of jealousy. Colquitt just wants her to stay away from the Greenes in case the House tries to drag her down with them. Claire's assumption is made more frustrating and painful by the fact that it's unclear if she really believes this or if she's being influenced by the House.
- Walter tries to warn Norman Greene about what happened to the previous families who lived in the House, but Norman, who's Jewish, assumes Walter's trying to drive him out of their WASP-y neighborhood.