Review: Haus by P.J. Vernon

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★★★★

Doubleday Books | 2021

Filed Under: Apparently, there’s not a lot of bathing in a bathhouse


Honestly, can we get more gay thrillers, please!

“Popular” mystery/thriller fiction is lacking in LGBTQ+ centred stories and we all know it or a book like this wouldn’t be such a breath of fresh air. And that makes no fucking sense to me, if reactions to this book are any indication – there is obviously an audience for these stories in the thriller world. Like, the only difference between Bath Haus and a typical mainstream thriller is that the sex was hotter.

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This novel was all juicy drama and twists, and I was totally enthralled. It was near perfection, except for oThis novel was all juicy drama and twists, and I was totally enthralled. It was near perfection, except that it takes its sweet time hitting the gas in the plot. Like there’s a whole scene of a medical conference speed. Zzzz I don’t care. But once you get past the first 100 pages, the story really settles into its stride.

Oliver, a reformed drug addict with a shady past, and his doctor husband, Nathan, have a beautiful life from the outside – a gorgeous renovated home, money and successful careers. But just like a perfectly curated Instagram account, looks can be deceiving. Nathan is controlling and Oliver is bored. So as the saying goes, when the cat’s away the mice will play.

While Nathan is away at a conference, Oliver and his wandering eye take a trip to a private, sexy bathhouse called Haus. Oliver ends up being terrifyingly assaulted by a perspective hook-up and that’s when shit really goes off the rails.

There is a serial killer, fake mugging, bathroom water damage, an abusive ex-boyfriend, forged prescriptions, sexual assault, an overbearing mother, historical brownstones, rich people tax shenanigans, a beautiful country house, dick pics, blow jobs, medical conferences, stalking, spying, a lost dog, a sinister hotel meetup, cheating, stealing, betrayal, naked art, hook-up apps, snuff films, false police reports and more fucking lies than you can shake a dick stick at.

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Every character in this – from Oliver and Nathan, to their friends, to their exes and down to their families – are completely unlikeable, but in a “love to hate you” kind of way. It is just juicy, juicy drama, people! For my taste, the author absolutely nailed that narrative style.

This novel is exactly what is needed in mainstream publishing – robust LGBTQ+ stories with representative characters in every kind of role. The plot feels personal to the gay community, but the themes – marriage, cheating, lying and straight-up fucking murder – are universal. We’re all human. We’re all going through variations of the same things. Well, hopefully not the murder. I sincerely hope that murder is not an active theme in your life.

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This does definitely gets an R rating for sex and adult situations though, so if that’s not your jam, here’s your warning. I will say, I’m not a big fan of sex scenes for the sake of sex scenes, but all the dirty bits in this were necessary to the plot and character development.

An intense, layered thriller, it creatively explores the idea of digging yourself a hole after one bad decision and what it means to be in a relationship where honesty is definitely not the policy.

Totally recommend.

CW – sexual assault, abuse and drug addiction

🔪🔪🔪


Oliver Park, a young recovering addict from Indiana, finally has everything he ever wanted: sobriety and a loving, wealthy partner in Nathan, a prominent DC trauma surgeon. Despite their difference in age and disparate backgrounds, they’ve made a perfect life together. With everything to lose, Oliver shouldn’t be visiting Haus, a gay bathhouse. But through the entrance he goes, and it’s a line crossed. Inside, he follows a man into a private room, and it’s the final line. Whatever happens next, Nathan can never know. But then, everything goes wrong, terribly wrong, and Oliver barely escapes with his life.

He races home in full-blown terror as the hand-shaped bruise grows dark on his neck. The truth will destroy Nathan and everything they have together, so Oliver does the thing he used to do so well: he lies.

What follows is a classic runaway-train narrative, full of the exquisite escalations, edge-of-your-seat thrills, and oh-my-god twists. P. J. Vernon’s Bath Haus is a scintillating thriller with an emotional punch, perfect for readers curious for their next must-read novel.

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