Cover image for Five Mile House
Five Mile House
Novak, Karen.
Personal Author:
First US edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, [2000]

Physical Description:
228 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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A modern day mystery haunted by a 19th Century ghost.

Eleanor Bly haunts Five Mile House, looking for someone to tell her story to. Jumping from a window to her death in 1889, Eleanor's soul is at unrest until the truth is told about her life and death. She finally finds Leslie, one hundred years later. Leslie bears an uncanny resemblance to Eleanor and is sympathetic if only because of the ghost she carries around herself...

In a moment of temporary insanity, Leslie shoots and kills the suspected perpetrator of a hideous child murder. When evidence is inconclusive, Leslie enters a severe depression and is temporarily institutionalized. When she is released from the hospital, her husband, in an effort to change their environment, takes his family to a small New England town to work on a mysterious restoration project of Five Mile House. It doesn't take long for them to hear about Eleanor, a 19th century madwoman who murdered her seven children in Five Mile House. Leslie becomes obsessed with Eleanor's story, suspecting that the truth may be different from the accepted myth. Wellington, locally known for its coven of wiccan followers, has many secrets of its own.

The stories of both women are told in parallel narratives until they converge at the very end. As frightening as it is suspenseful, Five Mile House is a classic page-turner, a haunted house story and also the story about the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect her children.

Author Notes

This is Karen Novak 's first novel. She lives in Mason, Ohio.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This haunted-house tale is told, in large part, by the ghost of a woman who murdered her children in 1889; it's listened to, in whispers and suggestions, by a contemporary cop, Leslie Stone, who killed another child-murderer and is haunted by her crime. Leslie and her family move to a small town in New England (usually a warning sign in suspense fiction) to begin again. As the husband works on restoring the "haunted house," Leslie is drawn to the Wiccan community of the town and into the madness that possessed its Medea. Tension escalates with Leslie's increasing preoccupation, the apparent suicide of a friend, and the disappearance of one of Leslie's children. The ghost tale weaves in and out of the novel, climaxing in a revelation of betrayal and murder that keeps one step ahead of what's happening to Leslie. A terrific ghost story and a fine first novel. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this strong debut, Novak combines suspense with modern witchcraft. Police detective Leslie Stone, a child abuse specialist, shoots an assumed perpetrator; after recuperation in a mental hospital, she leaves the police force. Then her carpenter husband, Greg, accepts an important restoration job at historic Five Mile House in the seemingly idyllic village of Wellington, whose main employer, a concrete recycling plant, is run by Wiccans who are searching for an ancient magical text. So is Harry Wellington, the owner of Five Mile House. As a curious Leslie researches the history of Wellington, Five Mile House and the deaths of the last family who inhabited itÄthe mother, Eleanor Bly, supposedly murdered seven of her children and committed suicideÄshe realizes she looks exactly like Eleanor. Is it coincidence or the reason the Stones were lured to Wellington? Leslie begins an edgy affair with local lawyer Phillip Hogarth and is befriended by enigmatic herbalist Gwen Garrett. Meanwhile, the ghosts of Eleanor and Amy, whose murder ended Leslie's police career, hover. Eleanor's ghost narrates part of the story, with some disconcerting shifts in tense. By the conclusion, Novak has the reader on tenterhooks as Leslie finds herself in mortal danger. Although this is more a damsel-in-distress novel with a supernatural bent than a traditional mystery, Novak successfully weaves the components together and leaves an opening for a sequel. Agent, Elizabeth Sheinkman at Elaine Markson. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved