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Beneath the Stairs

A Novel

“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Photograph: Chelsea Bos/Chelsea Bos Photography

Jennifer Fawcett grew up in rural Eastern Ontario and spent many years in Canada making theatre before coming to the United States. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Her work has been published in Third Coast Magazine, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Storybrink, and in the anthology Long Story Short. She teaches writing at Skidmore College and lives in upstate New York with her husband and son.

“I binge-watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I was soon hungry for a replacement, a novel that would delicately balance bone-chilling terror and deep sadness. Jennifer Fawcett’s debut Beneath the Stairs landed in my inbox at the right moment—and it wasn’t a replacement. It’s undoubtedly unique, an atmospheric and elegantly constructed novel about a woman’s descent into the heartland of mourning and guilt. Blending the best of horror, mystery, and suspense as we move through past and present storylines, this book will haunt you in more ways than one.”

—Loan L., Editor, on Beneath the Stairs

“In Beneath the Stairs, Jennifer Fawcett explores the lasting impact of childhood trauma in this metaphysical story about a house with buried secrets. An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!”

– Wendy Walker, author of Don't Look for Me and All Is Not Forgotten

“A spell-binding horror story, where the terror comes not from ghosts, but from the haunted places we find within ourselves. A thoroughly engrossing and compulsive read.

– Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Vanishing Point

"Jennifer Fawcett's Beneath the Stairs had me from the very first page. Tense, surprising, and utterly gripping, I loved this book!"

– Karen Dionne, author of international bestsellers The Marsh King's Daughter and The Wicked Sister

"A poignant haunted house tale about guilt, grief, and the nightmares of adolescence that follow us into adulthood. Fawcett delivers genuine scares in this chilling, mesmerizing debut." 

– Rachel Harrison, author of The Return

"Are you always on the lookout for a rich, mystery-riddled haunted house novel for grown-ups? Me too. Jennifer Fawcett's Beneath the Stairs is that book. A thrilling, thoughtful, character-driven crucible that reveals the ways childhood fear clings to us, shapes us, but can also show the one way out of our adult darkness."

– Andrew Pyper, author of The Residence and The Demonologist

"Beneath the Stairs is an audacious debut. With plotting as intricate and wild as the Hill House adaptation, it'll keep you guessing until the very end."

– Sarah Langan, author of Good Neighbors

"A novel brimming with menace and secrets, a haunting story of friendship and old betrayal that I devoured in one sitting. Fawcett delves into the complicated ties of teen girls against the backdrop of a small town and a strange house’s sinister history. Atmospheric, cleverly constructed—the past meets the present in this gripping debut."

– Karen Brown, author of The Clairvoyants and The Longings of Wayward Girls