The Invited by Jennifer McMahon


Helen and Nate abandoned their city lives for rural Vermont, where they will build their dream home on their new property, amidst the woods and the nearby bog. Helen, formerly a history teacher, is intrigued when learns about Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there nearly a century ago.  Hattie’s tragic story becomes merged with the house when Helen used materials related to Hattie (such as a wooden beam made from the oak tree where she was hanged) to decorate the interior of the house she’s building,  unwittingly inviting Hattie in. Hattie wants something from Helen, and she can’t rest until she gets it.

The Invited draws you in right from the start, with a prologue from 1924, told in Hattie’s perspective, relating the events that lead up to her death. At the end of it, two mysteries remain—the location of the Breckenridge “treasure” (if it even exists) and what happened to Hattie’s daughter after her mother’s death.

Decades later, the subject of Hattie and her treasure has dominated the imagination and gossip of local residents. They say Hattie’s ghost roams the bog, luring unsuspecting victims into its depths, never to be seen again, and people are warned to stay away from the area when darkness nears.

Newcomers Helen and Nate are unaware of the legend when they move to the area, learning about it only after experiencing several unexplained events that leave them feeling uneasy. Meanwhile, their teenaged neighbor Olive relentlessly searches the bog for the elusive treasure, hoping that finding it will result in her missing mother returning home.

The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Helen and Olive. It was intriguing to follow Helen  in her mission to discover everything there is to know about Hattie and her descendants, and interesting to see her relationship with Nate alter somewhat as they go through the stress of building their home. Olive’s treasure hunt, as well as her search for her mother, and her relationship with her father and aunt, were equally enjoyable to read about, and I felt a great deal of sympathy for her every time she faced obstacles in finding out what really happened the night her mother left. It was Hattie whom I was most interested in, however, because she was the most fascinating character of all.

Overall, this was a great read. Layers of mysteries, lots of unexpected twists, and a cast of characters that will long linger in my memory. If you enjoy reading books were dark histories of the past affect the lives of those in the present, then this is definitely a book for you.

This is the first novel of McMahon’s I’ve read, and I’m not sure how her work managed to escape my notice until now, but I’ll absolutely be reading more of her books in the future!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Doubleday via Netgalley.


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Author: Jennifer McMahon
Title: The Invited
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date: April 30, 2019 by Doubleday
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times best-selling author of THE WINTER PEOPLE, returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late…

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home – wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks — she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

About the Author

JENNIFER MCMAHON is the author of seven suspense novels, including Promise Not to Tell, The Winter People, and most recently, The Night Sister . I live in central Vermont with my partner and daughter, in an old Victorian that some neighbors call The Addams Family house.