Canadian author Andrew Pyper burst onto the crime-fiction scene with his horrific whodunnit Lost Girls, about two teenaged girls killed in northern Ontario—and the supernatural history of the town in which they’re murdered. It was one of those debuts that makes you sit up and take notice, and he’s followed it was a series of strong novels, including The Trade Mission, The Wildfire Season, The Demonologist, and—more recently—The Homecoming. Pyper always provides a dependable read that mixes eerie mystery and supernatural chills.
The Residence leans on the supernatural for a historical ghost story about President Franklin Pierce. Springing from true events—namely, the death of his son Bennie in a train accident, and his wife’s descent into depression—The Residence is a sorrowful and increasingly creepy account of the haunting of the White House. It involves spiritualists and séances, knocking walls and ghostly happenings, all grounded in American history. The book has a slow sense of dread that Pyper conveys expertly, weaving it with what feels like the grief that, in particular, Jane Pierce must have felt, given so much loss in her life. (Look her up for the tragic details!) Pyper’s research feels comprehensive, bringing in period details relating to feminism, slavery, and native peoples.
And it’s all too easy to sense Pyper’s commentary on the Trump administration’s “haunting” or “infestation” of the White House from 2017 to early 2021, giving The Residence a rather depressing subtext. The book does feel like a departure from Pyper’s typical crime fiction, but it’s a welcome one, overall. There’s a confidence to the prose that you can’t help but keep devouring, page to page, and if nothing else, this book tries to explain what is behind current events in a cheeky way. Check it out, and definitely use The Residence as a springboard to other great Andrew Pyper books.