Book review:The House of Four by Barbara Nadel


The House of Four by Barbara Nadel (first published in 2017 by Headline)

Barbara Nadel has a horde of other books available, and yet The House of Four was the first of her lit babies I ever picked up, and I adored it! I am kicking myself (figuratively) as you read this for never having treated myself to her writing before. 

Inspector Ikmen is called to a derelict house which contains the bodies of four dead siblings. All four were well into their nineties, and all were stabbed through the heart. Across the city, random stabbings and sightings of an odd and shadowy nature are reported with increasing frequency, and Ikmen and his team begin to wonder if the incidents are related. 

What could four reclusive nonagenarians have in common with devil sightings and madmen? Apart from a sordid history of alchemy and the dark arts, the siblings appear to have much in common with the (aptly named) Devil House which holds their corpses. 

In an effort to understand the four recluses, who buried themselves away from society as well as each other, Ikmen requires the assistance of everyone in his team, as well as a language specialist to decipher decades-old Ottoman letters, which flowed between the siblings where words failed.

All the while, the team begins to realise that evil has no timeline and that a frail body does not necessarily hide a frail heart.

Barbara Nadel is truly talented and her stories are thrilling, unique and deeply satisfying. Her settings and characters are varied and nuanced, and she has a knack for providing the unexpected (read: no predictable plots here, ladies and gents). 

My suggestion is that you read The House of Four, and then (like me) become a fan and source all her older work. 

WATCH: Barbara chats about her previous novel A Private Business

Read more of Samantha’s reviews on her blog.

Purchase a copy of the book on

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 1167 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 455 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2514 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 68 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 911 votes