Book Review: Within These Walls (Ania Ahlborn)


Defeated crime writer, Lucas Graham, is looking for a comeback. He’s feeling like his life is a mess (with an adulteress wife and an angst-filled teenage daughter), so when a beacon of hope arrives (in the form of a letter) from a correctional facility for an exclusive interview and access to Satanic cult leader, Jeffery Halcomb, he jumps on the opportunity to gain control back of his life; he’ll fix his marriage, he’ll rebuild his relationship with his daughter and he will find success. What he doesn’t realize, is all those things will come at a price…

Well, Ania Ahlborn has done it again. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing. And I’m pretty sure I am seeing things in my room. When I was looking for a creepy Halloween read to end off my October reading, I instantly jumped to Ahlborn.   I read one of her other novels, Brother, earlier this year and was hooked.   Naturally, I picked up a few others and was hoarding saving them for the perfect opportunity. Within These Walls, a psychological and supernatural horror, is a completely original, and frightening, story that will leave you gasping and checking over your shoulder.

The novel opens with a letter from a correctional facility. Renowned cult leader, and Satanist, Jeffery Halcomb is trying to connect with a true-crime author (Lucas). He has never spoken out on his crimes before, after being involved in the sacrifice and murder of one of his followers (the daughter of a congressman, Audra/Avis, and her newborn child) and then the suicides of eight others in some sort of ritualistic killing. He agrees to tell his complete story, in an exclusive interview, as long as Lucas moves into “his” home: the scene of the crime.

This got me hooked immediately. For starters, cults are both fascinating to me and terrifying! The novel immediately gave me a vibe that I got reading Helter Skelter (about the Manson family murders) or, this summer’s hit, The Girls by Emma Cline.   It also reminded me of the movie, Sinister, with the washed-up crime writer looking to revamp their career by moving into a home that was a scene of a crime. I actually really enjoyed the parallels; I felt like it helped to set up the creepy atmosphere even more.

The novel is narrated in alternating chapters between the present (as we watch Lucas pack up his daughter, move them into the Halcomb house and begin investigating into the cult and their rituals) and the past (as we see Audra/Avis sucked into the cult and the events that led up to her demise).   I loved this narration. Through Audra/Avis’ eyes, we are able to see the slow manipulation as she is sucked deeper and deeper into the cult and we follow the desperation of Lucas, as he grasps at straws to try and redeem himself. It really allowed for the reader to become close to both characters and then watch in horror as everything unravels.

As the novel progresses, it develops and introduces some paranormal elements. Yes. As if a cult isn’t bad enough, Alhborn gives us a cult that will come back from the dead to reach its goal.

Now, the novel is paced a little slower than I would have liked; however, it does work to build up anxiety and push towards the climax. I feel like maybe if Jeffery, the cult leader, would have been given a perspective in the narration, it would have helped to drive the story a little harder and keep the pace up.

Regardless, the concept is creepy. The characters are creepy and I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a nice creepy read!  Praise Ania Ahlborn for giving me another story that will keep me up at night!


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