“A killer thriller...We didn’t want to play witness but found ourselves peeking through closed fingers, cringing at every meticulous gunshot... Prepare to be unsettled, but take our word: De Feo’s concise voice and compelling characterization make this one worth it."
—Daily Candy (regarding Calling Mr. King)
House of Monsters is a dark, compelling novel very loosely based on the case of Fred and Rose West, who were among England’s most notorious serial killers. In this re-imaging of the case, they are named Frank and Rita Burke and their family consists of two girls and a boy. Narrated by the son, Owen, the story mixes fact and fiction to create a disturbingly vivid portrait of a contemporary British family in which children live with parents who, in their own home, regularly and for many years molest, torture and kill numerous young women. Husband-and-wife serial killers are rare, but what makes this couple even more unusual and frightening is that they are raising a family and appear to be leading a regular, commonplace life while at the same time are secretly committing transgressive, murderous crimes.
Though the parents are central to the book and appear throughout much of it, House of Monsters is primarily the story of the children and how they managed to grow up and survive in such a home. Too young and innocent to unravel the mystery that surrounds Frank and Rita, they are puzzled by the female lodgers who come to the house and then suddenly disappear, by the odd sounds, possibly cries, coming from the cellar, and by their father’s need to work in his garden in the dead of night. The novel also focuses on the children’s lives as adults, and in the case of Owen especially, on the fear of having inherited Frank and Rita’s sexual obsessions and madness.
In essence, House of Monsters, which unfolds gradually as Owen begins to learn the shocking truth about his parents, is a story of psychological terror and an exploration of the haunting power of a traumatic, savage past.
“A great premise: that a hired gun’s need for a career change might take him into a wholly expected direction...De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.”
—Kirkus Reviews (regarding Calling Mr. King)
“It’s an engrossing story, persuasively depicting an angry, obsessive man as he comes to a greater awareness of the world around him…De Feo’s master strokes are in creating a remorseless psychopath you'd enjoy spending time with.”
—Publishers Weekly (regarding Calling Mr. King)
“Whether pretending to be a British aristocrat in New York or unsentimentally confronting his dismal childhood, De Feo’s hit man is extremely likeable and the novel emerges as a study of the delights and dangers of reinvention.”
—The New Yorker (regarding Calling Mr. King)
“Calling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo is an exhilarating read... Mr. King made me laugh and feel deeply saddened. I was with him on every step of his journey and loved every minute of it.”
—MostlyFictionBookReviews.com (regarding Calling Mr. King)
“De Feo’s clever character-driven plot follows the hit-man as he steps away from his unexamined life and begins to discover a world beyond his weapons. The result is an excellent, unusual and intense character study which combined with the book’s unexpected dark humor makes Calling Mr. King one of my finds of the year.”
—swiftlytiltingplanet.wordpress.com (regarding Calling Mr. King)
Ronald De Feo is the author of the novels Calling Mr. King (Other Press) and Solo Pass (Other Press, May 2013).