Review #235 // Twelve Nights at Rotter House – J.W. Ocker

Twelve Nights at Rotter House

Felix Allsey is a travel writer down on his luck, desperate for a break that will make him a household name. When he convinces the owner of the infamous Rotterdam Mansion to let him stay there for thirteen nights, he invites his estranged friend Thomas along, in hopes of rekindling their friendship. But as more and more strange events start happening, they realize they may have bit off more then they can chew.

Why this book?: I’m trying to get back into reading and reviewing, and fast-paced horror seemed the best place to do that. I found this one on Scribd, and thought it looked interesting!

As I mentioned above, I’ve been trying to get back into reading, after a few years of on-and-off again struggling to balance school, work, and hobbies. Unfortunately, reading and reviewing got stuck on the back burner, and I kind of drifted away from this community. But as the New Year came and went, I realized that I really missed doing this, and wanted to do the work to get back into it. I used to struggle to find good horror books, so I figured the best way to start the year was by diving into the horror genre and finally find the books that I’ve been looking for. Unfortunately, Twelve Nights at Rotter House didn’t entirely deliver on what the summary led me to believe, once again ending in a disappointing horror/thriller book to add to my collection.

Of course, I’m going to give credit where credit is due: the entirety of this book was fast-paced and eye-catching, dragging me forward from the next event to the next. Ocker knew what he was doing when he built up the horror aspects of this novel, completely delivering on them. There were quite a few scenes in which I felt shivers going up my back, turning to look around me despite the only thing else in the room with me being a cat. There were classic tropes used in these types of novels that Felix and Thomas kept hilariously referring to, making his knowledge of the horror genre a fun aspect to add to this. Having all of these horrific scenes play out to someone so used to the tropes in horror movies was especially hilarious, because, while his reactions were genuine and believable, the comments added a layer of humor I wasn’t expecting about how “stereotypical” these events. It was so funny, reading these characters experiencing these events like I probably would, not believing it because it’s so stereotypical and unoriginal. Ocker knew the tropes that he was using, and played into them heavily, making the horror aspects of this book some of the best that I’ve read in a long while.

Speaking of the two characters, I loved the interactions with Felix and Thomas. Their past relationship was built up logically, and the falling out they had constantly referred to, so the reader is put into this position of seeing how they interact now and before, but also knowing that there’s something hanging between the two of them that they both refuse to talk about. I thought this was an amazingly added subplot to the book, because while all the horror scenes were playing out, you had the two characters tiptoeing around each other. It wasn’t added in randomly, but naturally, and even if the horror-plot wasn’t there to begin with, I found this one intriguing enough to keep reading–that is, up until it was revealed. Don’t get me wrong: with everything built up how it was, I should have seen it coming. It was a natural conclusion, with how close these two showed themselves to be. But something about the reveal with still wildly underwhelming, possibly because Ocker did so much hinting and leading up to it that, by the time it was revealed, readers’ expectations were put up so high that literally nothing could fulfill it. By the time it was revealed, the whole thing just seemed so … so childish.

And that brings us to the end. Once again, I guess this was somewhat led up to, and I should have seen it coming. But at the same time, the summary of the book led me to believe that this was a classic haunted house story, so that’s what I was really expecting this book to lead up to. This may be considered a spoiler, but just for the purpose of no one else jumping into this and expecting the story to go one way … it’s not a classic haunted house story. The characters of Felix and Thomas were built up amazingly throughout the story, and I do believe that Ocker did that well. However, the … framing that the summary gave this novel isn’t entirely accurate, so when the twist finally came around, it felt so unnatural and shocking. I understand that a lot of this isn’t really Ocker’s fault, that the summary led me to believe something, and that when I didn’t get it, I was disappointed. However, their writing also led me to believe that this was going to go in a different direction, so even when the twist came, it felt like more of a cop-out then anything else.

Final Rating: ★★★½☆☆


While I enjoyed Twelve Nights at Rotter House overall in the horror department, and absolutely commend Ocker on their ability to work in things gradually, I really struggled with how all of these well-developed plot-devices ultimately went sour with the twist. After the huge reveal, it felt like everything I had just read wasn’t worth it. Not like I had been mislead, but more like that there had been no point in there being the whole story that Ocker wrote. When I finished the book, I found myself sitting there wondering what the point had been in reading the whole thing if it hadn’t mattered. I understand wanting to shock people with twists, but unless it makes sense for the story and how you’ve been leading up to it, it’s hard to get behind.

Would I Recommend?

Sure, with the note that this isn’t just a haunted house story, and that it’s more based in reality then one might think. Just as I mentioned multiple times above, it’s a well-developed story with amazing characters that had a lot of potential. However, expectations and a lot of building-up that led to, really, nothing, made this book more of a disappointment then a new favorite.

Trigger Warnings including, but not limited to: Suicide mention, murder mention, described gore/violence, blood, extreme alcohol use, drug use, cheating, mentioned/implied rape, and unreliable narrator.

Twelve Nights at Rotter HouseAdditional Information:

Published: November 19th, 2019

Publisher: Turner

Page Count: 304

Genre: Horror/Mystery

Synopsis: via Goodreads

Felix Allsey is a travel writer with a keen eye for the paranormal, and he’s carved out a unique, if only slightly lucrative, niche for himself in nonfiction; he writes travelogues of the country’s most haunted places, after haunting them himself.

When he convinces the owner of the infamous Rotterdam Mansion to let him stay on the premises for 13 nights, he believes he’s finally found the location that will bring him a bestseller. As with his other gigs, he sets rules for himself: no leaving the house for any reason, refrain from outside contact, and sleep during the day.

When Thomas Ruth, Felix’s oldest friend and fellow horror film obsessive, joins him on the project, the two dance around a recent and unspeakably painful rough-patch in their friendship, but eventually fall into their old rhythms of dark humor and movie trivia. That’s when things start going wrong: screams from upstairs, figures in the thresholds, and more than what should be in any basement. Felix realizes the book he’s writing, and his very state of mind, is tilting from nonfiction into all out horror, and the shocking climax answers a question that’s been staring these men in the face all along: In Rotter House, who’s haunting who?

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- Avery