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Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
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Burnt Offerings (1973)

by Robert Marasco

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Review: Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco.

The story was horror but not the gory, scary or bloody type. It’s a silent horror that grows on the reader. It was a good read but not what I expected. It’s hard to explain horror being silent. It’s more or less on the haunted house theme that surrounds the characters within the story. I also thought it was predictable before the pages started flowing. It is a work of subtlety and refinement. The character were well developed and held the story together.

The story is about a family who lives in the city of Brooklyn, New York. Marian Rolfe wants to find a summer place to rent but Ben Rolfe her husband isn’t to keen on the idea. His profession is teaching so he has the summer off and Marian wants to get away for a change. Marian went through the ads in the paper and circle a few places to check out. She finally motivates her husband into looking at a few places with no inner city noisy neighbors, traffic, and no city heat wave to put up with. She wants a place by the water where her eight-year-old son can enjoy a rural setting.

Ben struggled to find the first place on the list that Marian already set up ahead of time. It was located, as I would say, “out in the boonies”. When they finally found the place they were amazed of the size of the estate which was listed as a cottage for the summer. Already Ben has his doubts and figured they would never be able to afford a place like that even as run down as it looked. They could see the bay from the front of the house, a swimming pool, and the landscape that has been unintended for some time. They are met at the door by the owners Mrs. Allardyce and her brother. The Rolfe’s were taken on a tour of the place and the inside was just as bad as the outside but Marian was captivated by the eccentric feel of the house. There was no getting away from the house, Marian was already obsessed with the place. As the owners and the Rolfe family discuss the rent and weird arrangement that was offered, Ben wanted no part of the house.

After not going to look at any other place they went home with the intent of not renting the place. However, Ben was getting the brunt cold shoulder from Marian. After winning him over and planning to have Ben’s older aunt go with them for the summer they packed up and were on there way. With the cheap rental and one other condition they needed to put up with Marian was happy as can be. When they got there Mrs. Allardyce was not there and left them a not to enjoy their summer. Marian knew she had her work cut out for her to get the place clean, dusted and livable. Soon things started happening to the house and to the family. They started noticing small things at first and Ben felt something was going on with the house but Marian kept telling him that he was mistaken. As each day went on more unusual things were happening. Marian still didn’t notice or if she had she was not going back to the city. There were even changes in their physical appearance and attitude. Marian use the arrangement they made with the owners her excuse why she could not leave and go back to the city. As time passed the situation got worse to the point that the house was coming alive and was brighter. The Rolfe family was taking possession of the country house for the summer or was it the other way around, “has the house taken possession of the tenants”? And why was west wing of the estate forbidden to be entered by anyone but Marian? ( )
1 vote Juan-banjo | Jun 25, 2016 |
My original Burnt Offerings audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco is a slow-burn of a horror novel, one that I have to admit I struggled with. For a book that’s around only 8 hours of listening time, it felt twice as long thanks to Marasco’s lethargic pacing and subtle scares.

At it’s core, Burnt Offerings is a haunted house story. Ben and Marian Rolfe, along with their son, Dave, escape the city for the summer and rent an opulent, lakeside mansion on the cheap. There’s a catch, of course, beyond the minor price-tag and the oddities of the Allardyce’s they are renting from, and Marian soon finds herself the caretaker of an unseen old woman who lives upstairs. The premise is sound, but the execution left me wanting far more than Marasco provided. See, I prefer quicker, deeper, faster cuts in my horror fiction and too much of the horror elements here revolved around a woman’s hair turning prematurely gray as she methodically cleans house. Too much of the book is even less intriguing than this. There are occasional, and well done, moments of creepiness, as well as forays into violence and madness, to interrupt the otherwise languid narrative before slipping back into a frustratingly slow story, until the last hour or so when things finally get kicked up a notch for an unsettling finale.

Burnt Offerings is a mixed bag of a book. I didn’t care much for the characters or Marasco’s plodding pace, but there is a richly developed theme about the curse of consumerism and desiring what others have. Much of the book revolves around Marian’s base need to possess what is beyond her, until she, and those she loves, is threatened by the very thing she wishes to consume. It’s a great element in the book, but one that I wish were amplified to a stronger degree in the characters. I wanted more psychological scares, more mania, more horror. I know Burnt Offerings was a notable influence on Stephen King’s The Shining, but frankly I’ll take that King book over this any day.

A part of me thinks that RC Bray, though, is a better narrator than this book needed. He has such a rich, deep voice and switches up character voices with ease and a lack of fuss. His delivery is spot-on, particularly during the rare frenetic scenes where he provides a suitable amount of gusto to bring the horror to life. In terms of production quality, there’s nothing to complain about – audio levels and clarity are consistently good throughout the run-time, and I like the little snippet of musical score that accompanied the opening and ending of this title.

While I found myself occasionally disturbed by some of the events depicted in Marasco’s book, I ultimately felt more disappointed and, too often, bored.

Audiobook was provided for review by the publisher. ( )
1 vote audiobibliophile | Jun 15, 2016 |
A haunted house horror tale from the 70's now in kindle form. Marian, Ben and their son David respond to an ad to act as housesitters at the home of the Allardyces in upstate New York. What follows is a creepy tale as the house appears to be coming alive bit by bit and all through Marian. There is something very unsettling about this book....what is the true intention of the Allardyces letting this beautiful old house for the small sum of $900? who is the old lady who resides deep within the walls of the house and who must be regularly fed three times each day?...although she is never seen. What strange power has this house over Marian as she appears to sacrifice it over the lives of her husband Ben and son David. "It was alive, all around her it was alive, and how else had it come alive but through her? And wasn't that the uneasiness she was feeling - the growing awareness of her power in the house, the enormity of the mystery enveloping her life...." ( )
1 vote runner56 | Nov 1, 2015 |
A family takes possession of a rundown estate for the summer and weird things happen.

So the moral of this story is: If it seems too good to be true, run away as fast as you can. This is a twist on the classic haunted house story. Here the house itself does the haunting, somehow feeding on the youthful energy of the rubes duped into living in it in order to restore itself. Competently written and a little unsettling but never truly scary, this is an interesting entry in the genre and a worthwhile read. Burnt Offerings was published in 1973, and there is a wonderful '70s vibe to it, which was a great decade for horror altogether. ( )
2 vote sturlington | Jul 10, 2015 |
A compelling read. I read it in one sitting late at night. The suspense builds up really well but the ending is a bit obvious. It seemed very similar to other horror novels from the same era, but better written. ( )
1 vote castironskillet | Aug 13, 2013 |
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For My Parents
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0899684378, Hardcover)

The Rolfes -- Ben, wife Marian, son David, and Aunt Elizabeth -- are a pleasant family from New York seeking to escape from the doldrums of a summer in their Queens apartment. They find a beautiful old country mansion on Long Island -- restful, secluded, with pool and private beach -- perfect, for the right people. But their "perfect" summer home hides terrors beyond their wildest imaginings. During that long summer the house becomes a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:11 -0400)

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