‘Devil House,’ a Confident, Creepy Novel About a Wicked Unsolved Crime

As if in a goblin’s skillet, everything has been thoroughly cooked. In every sense of the word, the outcome is wicked. The kids are ecstatic, to the point of being positively Luciferian, about it all.

The landlord and a real estate developer show up one day. In Darnielle’s words, “You always notice how adults wreck everything as soon as they arrive on the scene,” no matter what age you are.

With an enormous sword, the two are brutally dispatched. Astonishingly, no one has been found guilty. Because this is pre-internet, the murders have the air of legend. Murals in the area have been described as having the appearance of “dead bodies, cryptograms in the graffiti, and the spectre of teenage satanic rites,” among other things.

Two decades or so after the murders, Chandler begins his reporting, in an attempt to gain some clarity from “the murky beginnings in which legend is formed,” He’s meticulous and devoted. eBay has become a haven for crime fetishists, and he spends hours perusing the listings.

Chandler tells the stories of these children. He is reunited with an old friend from his youth. The perspective has been shifted numerous times.

“The White Witch of Morro Bay,” a novel about a young schoolteacher who killed two students who broke into her apartment by stabbing one of them 37 times with an oyster knife, is one of Chandler’s earliest works. An emotional letter from the mother of a deceased boy’s family hits him right below the surface.

According to Stanley Elkin’s 1971 novel, “The Dick Gibson Show,” “by what inevitable degrees does bent become inclination, tendency, penchant, disposition, disposition fate?”

In “Devil House,” this is a reiteration of one of the central concerns. You’ll never know what you’re getting into until the very end. It has improved.