Episode Thirteen (2023) – Craig DiLouie

Orbit Books brings me my first real creepy novel of 2023, Episode Thirteen. Using the familiar structure of the found footage genre, something that has been co-opted successfully for all of the ghost-hunting shows that seem to plague reality television, DiLouie compiles a literary found footage film, offering up video transcripts, EVP recordings, text messages, and journal entries to take us on an exploration of a haunted house that will stay with you.

Fade to Black is a ghost-hunting television series that is coming up on the close of its first season with the possibility of a second season within their grasp. And Matt, the star’s lead investigator has scored them the location that they think will help them finish the season on a high note, and launch them into an exciting season two… the legendary Foundation House.

Along with his science-based, skeptical wife, Claire, giving the pair a bit of a Mulder-Scully vibe, they are joined by a former police officer, Kevin, who believes he confronted a demon on a domestic violence call, cameraman Jake, who had a troubled past with an abusive father, and single mother and professional actor, Jessica, who is using the show to build her public awareness and hopefully lead to bigger things.

The novel is broken into the days of investigation as they set up on location. Foundation House has a horrifying past where science, the occult, and the paranormal seems to have collided, but almost everyone who was involved has literally vanished.

Now the cast and crew of Fade to Black are going to delve into the mystery, and neither they nor the reader will be ready for what they find.

Using the trappings of found footage, and supporting material, like hot sheets and emails, the story lets us delve into the characters, their thoughts, and their experiences in the house, leading to a shocking conclusion.

DiLouie’s tale was completely captivating, and one of those novels you just don’t want to put down, you want to read just a little more, even as some of the ideas and occurrences leave you a little shaken.

When things start happening, none of it is what the team was expecting and it raises just as many questions as it does posit answers, but what if they and we aren’t able to see what it all really means?

There are moments that call to other horror films, and novels, I was reminded of Poltergeist and House of Leaves, as well as others, and even the characters are aware of tropes and pop culture, commenting on them, which not only makes them relatable but grounds them as real people in the reader’s mind.

I loved this one, it was creepy, twists expectations, and delivers a thought-provoking ending that may make you reconsider the whole paranormal realm.

Craig DiLouie delivers a fantastic found footage novel with Episode Thirteen, available now from Orbit Books, check it out!

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