I do love a horror novel that has a strong sense of dark humour, (cf my love for the books of Grady Hendrix here, here and here). Somehow I’ve not managed to encounter Will Carver before, but after reading The Beresford I’ll be exploring his back catalogue soon, for this novel is genuinely creepy but also darkly funny!
I don’t want to spoil things unduly for the reader, but it would be enough to tease you with the fact that the apartment block known as The Beresford might as well be called The Hotel California (yes, that bit of the lyric), but taken to a new level with that blood-red Escher-inspired cover.
After a tantalising prologue, the novel begins by introducing us to Abe Schwartz, at least the concept of a guy called Abe Schwartz – the perfect geeky nice guy boyfriend for a possessive father’s daughter. There’s nothing dangerous about Abe, or is there?
Abe Schwartz lives in a one-bed furnished flat. An apartment building called The Beresford. The bell rings and he’s the one opening the front door to a stranger.
Before that, he’s dragging a dead body into his room, mopping up blood and asking himself, What the hell just happened?
Cut to the young woman that Abe is opening the door to. She’s Blair Conway, finally leaving home, getting away from her over-religious parents and their ‘small-town life’ – she’s found a nice apartment at a good rent in The Beresford.
The Beresford has a history. Over the years, several folk have died in questionable circumstances there. The top eight floors have a side entrance with a lift. The bottom two comprise five apartments and a large lobby, and one of the ground floor ones is occupied by old Mrs May, who owns the building, and has seen it all. Blair had been surprised by the low deposit and reasonable rent, but ‘the place had something of a turnaround’.
Abe was in shock when she arrived seeking help to carry her boxes in. He’d been in a panic, frantically googling how to dispose of a dead body when the doorbell rang. The body in question was that of the unbearably annoying artist Sythe, his now ex-neighbour. It never occurred to him to call the police. Needless to say, Abe and Blair begin to hit it off – but you just know it’s going to go very, very wrong. As for Mrs May,
As long as the rooms were filled, she was content. It didn’t matter who anybody was or why they were there. She never asked why they had to leave, she never followed up if they moved on without a word. The rooms were never empty for long.
As soon as somebody was out, somebody else came in.
That’s how The Beresford worked.
Although the mechanics of amateurs disposing of a dead body in secret (no Dexters here!) is rather gory and unpleasant to think about, the way Carver makes his hapless murderer go about it is funny. Mrs May also starts off as a dotty old lady who spends a lot of time tending her roses, but ere long, you’re dying to know what makes her tick. She does seem to care for all her tenants, well, maybe not Sythe so much, but she definitely worries for Abe and Blair and those that follow them.
The Beresford ought to be a place of transit for all these young people, somewhere to springboard onto the next stages of their lives and careers from – or so they think. Each of the characters we’re introduced to are nearly ready for that new life, just using The Beresford to get their shit together, so to speak before moving on. But The Beresford isn’t really that kind of place, is it?
Each of the characters who move into The Beresford are well-drawn and different to each other and you so hope that what has happened to Sythe and Abe won’t happen to them, Carver makes you care, and then in best horror style pulls the rug, again and again.
This novel is a complete pageturner, getting creepier and darker as the pages go on – I couldn’t put it down. Loved it. (10/10)
Source: Review copy – thank you. Will Carver, The Beresford (Orenda, 2021) paperback original, 276 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.