#BookReview: THE HALF BURNT HOUSE by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks

Publication: 16th March 2023 – Michael Joseph

Katie Shaw always looked after her younger brother Chris – until she left him alone one carefree afternoon and he was savagely attacked. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

Now a mother, Katie vows not to repeat her mistakes. Carelessness cost her one family, and she won’t let it destroy another.

Then she receives a call from the police.

They’re investigating a particularly brutal murder, in a half-ruined house that once belonged to a notorious local serial killer. The case has thrown up many unsettling questions, but only one prime suspect: Chris.

The detective wants Katie’s help finding him, but she has only one thing on her mind: proving her brother’s innocence, and finally making up for her negligence all those years ago. But soon it becomes clear that the killer isn’t finished yet.

Which means that even as she attempts to save her old family, Katie is placing her new one in deadly peril…



“If you could see the future, would you want to?”. This is the question that, one afternoon, leads seventeen-year-old Katie Shaw to go to her boyfriend’s house instead of going home with her younger brother Chris, changing their lives forever. Chris’ brutal attack left not only scars on him, but also on Katie, who, fifteen years later, is still affected by the events of that afternoon and feeling guilty. Now a mother, she worries constantly about her daughter’s safety, seeing danger everywhere and she hasn’t spoken to her brother in two years. However, when her mother tells her that Chris has finally put his life back together, but has suddenly disappeared, Katie promises not to leave her brother alone this time.

In the meantime, detective Laurence Page is on the scene of a murder in a mansion half still in ruins from a decades-old fire. The victim is a philosophy professor, Alan Hobbes, who’s been brutally murdered in his sleep. And the only suspect is none other than Chris. While the half burnt house is peculiar, what’s strange is that the victim seemed to be obsessed with a decades-old serial killer, but even more bizarre that he seemed to know that death was coming and he was waiting for it.

The story is told from different perspectives, starting from the victim of the murder, and then Katie and detective Laurence Page, but also other characters whose role is slowly revealed, creating a puzzling narrative that kept me in suspense the entire time. I love Alex North’s novels and, while The Whisper Man is still my favourite, I really enjoyed The Half Burnt House. With paranormal vibes and twists and turns at every corner, I was completely engrossed in the story as both Katie and detective Page try to find out the truth: why was Chris randomly attacked? And what has got himself involved with this time? Why is a red car stalking Katie’s family? And was a 1950s serial killer really able to predict the future? The road to the truth is dark, disturbing, and suspenseful. The Half Burnt House is a gripping, thought-provoking, and exciting read and I can’t recommend it enough!

A huge thank you to Michael Joseph and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department. The Whisper Man was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is being published in more than 30 languages.

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