Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie – Review

Published: January 24, 2023

Publisher: Redhook

Series: N/A

Genre: Horror

Pages: 464 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

From the macabre mind of Bram Stoker Award nominated author Craig DiLouie, Episode Thirteen is a heart pounding novel of horror and psychological suspense that takes a ghost hunting reality TV crew into a world they could never have imagined possible. A beautiful Russian doll of a story… Episode Thirteen hooks you, creeps you out, and then it overwhelms you. It’s House of Leaves meets Haunting of Hill House, in all the best possible ways. — Peter Clines, NYT bestselling author of The Broken Room.

Fade to Black is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. Led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin, it delivers weekly hauntings investigated by a dedicated team of ghost hunting experts. Episode Thirteen takes them to every ghost hunter’s holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This brooding, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It’s also famously haunted, and the team hopes their scientific techniques and high tech gear will prove it. But as the house begins to reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of. A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, and correspondence, this is the story of Episode Thirteen — and how everything went terribly, horribly wrong.

I heard a TON of good things about this book when it was released earlier this year and was seriously disappointed that I didn’t request a copy of it from the publisher. BUT, this ended up being a good thing because the audiobook has a full cast with *creepy sound effects* and it was fantastic! The sound effects made it extra scary and suspenseful.

The premise of this is also really compelling – a group of ghost hunters are going to a haunted house in Virginia to film an episode of their tv series. The house itself is massive (more of a mansion) and a group of scientists did a bunch of experiments on volunteers there back in the 60s or 70s to find a connection to the paranormal. The volunteers left after being disturbed by the research and the scientists disappeared, never to be heard from again. Our paranormal investigators come in fully prepared to see some wild stuff (except for Claire, who’s ready to debunk). Their show won’t be picked up for a second season if it doesn’t do well and there’s a ton of other interpersonal drama on top of this that gets unearthed over the course of the book. 

It starts off pretty slow, but allows you to really get to know the characters and basically steep in the drama for a bit. Then, AT LAST, things really pick up because they actually encounter something and get it on film! This part was actually pretty unsettling and the full audio experience made it incredible because the haunting likes to blare weird 60s music and White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. From here on out, this book gets really bonkers but in a good way. 

The characters themselves were not all that likable, but were sympathetic if that makes sense. Claire starts out as the group’s resident skeptic. She’s out to debunk everything but she eventually goes all in when she experiences something supernatural first hand. Jessica (aka Rashida) is only a hired actress to round out the team, so she’s not as invested in this as everyone else beyond advancing her own career. Claire’s husband and Kevin are the true believers of the group and they get pretty intense. Kevin in particular is quite abrasive though fully supports the team in investigating these phenomena, but trust me, he’s a proper asshole. Then there’s Jake the camera guy, who might actually be the most likable person out of the whole group.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and delighted in the utter weirdness of the latter half though I found the ending to be a little underwhelming. It was such an unexpected outcome but I found myself thinking, “is that it?”. I didn’t love the book but it was well written and the audio format really was fantastic. On the horror scale, this wasn’t actually that terrifying  but there were some exhilarating and uniquely creepy moments.


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