a blank slate

a blank slate

Tag: R.I.P. VIII

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Honestly, I don’t know how to write a review for this book. I could just say last night was the most awesome reading experience of my life. The last time I stayed up the whole night reading horror was when I read The Shining, which was my (mind-blowing) introduction to Stephen King and all things horror. The thing is, no one is probably going to read this anyway, because all my Stephen King reviews ending up sounding almost exactly the same. But this book was different and in a way, I think King scrapped all his usual tricks. 
Summary: The Overlook wasn’t done with him. That could be the theme of Danny’s life up to the events of this book. Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate
to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he
settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job
at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final
comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.” 
Meanwhile, on highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. The True Knot, who look harmless, are in fact quasi-immortals, who torture and kill children with ‘the shining’ to feed on their ‘steam’. When Dan meets the little Abra Stone, through her gift, the brightest shining ever seen, he finds a student, much in the way Dick Halloran had found him. The danger she faces from the True reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival.
Of course, that is not all. But it never is, with Stephen King, is it?
My thoughts: Despite being the biggest King fan you’d find, I don’t think I ever used the word ‘unique’ to describe any of his books; but Doctor Sleep was – wholly unique in its concepts, themes, even characters, and so so unique in the way it scared the hell out of me. Stephen King’s books have always been more than just “boo! i scared you!” for me, and I’ve hardly ever had to go searching for meaning. Even The Shining was not just about those scary special effects and Doctor Sleep is quite the same in that respect. It would be disappointing to people who read horror for the gore, the adrenaline rush and nothing more; who distinguish good horror from bad simply as scarier from not-so-scary. Well, you can’t impress everybody; except that, after reading 11.22.63, Misery, Under the Dome, Joyland, it should be plenty clear that King can be amazingly genre-defying.
Doctor Sleep is a much more grown-up book. Whereas The Shining could be interpreted as a straightforward haunting, Doctor Sleep is anything but. For one, in The Shining, Jack Torrance is manipulated by the presences in The Overlook, Danny is scared by them. In Doctor Sleep, our characters have already been through so much; they’re a lot more resilient, not quite as vulnerable. Basically, they don’t lose control, they fight back. So while the focus in most Stephen King books is the psychological breakdown of the characters, the demons in them and the ‘getting inside their heads and screwing things up’, which affects the reader too; Doctor Sleep is more about concepts – scary, freaky concepts of life and death, the after and the in between, souls, ‘ghosties’ and most importantly, the shining. The idea of the True Knot, our undead villains, their strange tongue, is incredibly imaginative. That Danny uses his ability to help people die is both disturbing and nice. The big and little ideas strewn over the book, of protecting family, of locking ghosts away inside your mind, the death flies that swarm on people who are about to die and using the ‘wheel’ to swap minds are well crafted. And if you ever wondered just what the shining was, other than a convenient goosebump-inducing plot device, this book will make things much clearer. 
Abra Stone is a wonderful character; with much more personality than the little Danny of The Shining. I like her family too and the way it adds a human element to a book that is otherwise full of characters with special abilities or outright monsters. And I like grown-up Dan a lot more than little Danny, too. While he closely mirrors his father’s life, more than you’d want a protagonist to, there is a key difference between him and Jack. While Jack Torrance was the victim of The Overlook (and himself), while I felt less hatred and more pity towards him, while we can say he tried desperately to stop himself (he did one redeeming thing at the end), he was never the hero Dan turns into. Dan Torrance is a good guy, when all I can say for Jack was that he tried to be good. But I like that Dan can admit he loved his father, with all his goods and bads (and there were many bads) and I like how easily Dan takes on the role of uncle/teacher/protector for Abra. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he looks like Jax Teller. (Which reminds me, all the pop culture references are so entertaining! There were allusions to Harry Potter, The Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, Hamlet, Moby Dick, Dickens, Oscar Wilde, The Beatles, hell, even Twilight.)
Basically, Doctor Sleep isn’t just one story like The Shining was. It isn’t an ‘epic’, either, as the Goodreads summary calls it, because it might just be a bit simple to be one. It is definitely a combination of many stories; of the recovering alcoholic, the little girl with more abilities than a little girl should have to handle, a doctor who helps people die (assisted by a cat with the eerie ability to predict people’s death.) On their own, these can seem to be borrowed from many of King’s own books; but that doesn’t mean they don’t fit perfectly together and create something intriguing, complex. And finally, the book is the true ending to what started all those years ago in The Shining. Having read Doctor Sleep, I can’t imagine how I found The Shining complete.

I am so glad I could finish this book just in time to close the R.I.P. Challenge. Happy Halloween! Now let me leave you with this little quote: “Life was a wheel, its only job was to turn, and it always came back to where it started.”

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

The Small Hand by Susan Hill is a long short story written as a short novel. It’s a ghost story. Our narrator is a rare book collector and dealer, who is returning home to London after having visited an elite client near the coast. He loses his way and in the dark, stumbles upon an old house called The White House. There is a little sign next to is that says, “Garden Closed.” The narrator walks towards the gate, hoping to get directions from the owners, but through the undergrowth, he realizes that the house is deserted and quite possibly, derelict. What had once been, it seems, a grand garden is now just wild brambles and bushes. But something keeps the narrator there, wanting to find out more about the place, and as he waits in the moonlight, something strange happens. A small hand, a child’s, slips into his and holds him. It is comforting; only, invisible. And though he leaves then, our ever-so-curious narrator is drawn to the The White House, digging into its past and the fate of its owners, as the invisible force haunts his mind.
The writing meanders along and keeps going off at tangents: of course, if you enjoy history, travel and the world of libraries and rare books as much as I do, you won’t mind them. It’s an A. S. Byatt meets Sarah Waters story with vivid imagery and an unmistakably gothic setting. The story moves at a slow pace and the end is quite abrupt. It is not a very well plotted book, in that nothing much really happens.

The Small Hand is not a ghost story, really, even if the cover claims it is. It doesn’t star pale-slimy-skinned-creatures. This is a psychological haunting, which may seem bland to some readers. But, I don’t see why. For me, a terrible inexplicable fear, a frightening urge to end your own life, insanity and voices in your head, when written so well, are almost as scary as rotting bodies in bathtubs and freaky apparitions. In fact, they are a lot more tangible; while I could simply dismiss a monster as ‘fiction’, while reading The Small Hand, I was able to put myself in the narrator’s place and it was creepy.

While on the whole, this story was little more than okay, it had its moments. If not anything else, the beautiful artsy narration makes me want to read the other ghost stories by Susan Hill (The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror, The Man in the Picture and Dolly.)
I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge.

Black Dog by Stephen Booth

The book opens with a note telling us what ‘black dog’, aside from the obvious, means: melancholy, depression of spirits; ill humour. In some country places, if a child is sulking, it is said ‘the black dog is on his back.’
Summary: As helicopters search Northern England’s Peak District for
fifteen year-old Laura Vernon, Detective Constable Ben Cooper quietly dreads
the worst. When her body is found in the woods, Cooper’s investigation
begins with a short list of very uncooperative suspects: retired miner
Harry Dickinson, whose black Labrador discovered Laura’s body, and Laura’s
wealthy parents. Uneasily teamed with ambitious newcomer Detective Constable
Diane Fry, Cooper tests a town’s family ties, friendships, and loyalties – and
finds that in order to understand the present, they must unearth the past.
My thoughts: Wow. This is a fantastic read. Not only am I going to wholeheartedly recommend Black Dog to everyone, I’m going to go ahead and read the rest of the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry series; if the twelve books that follow are anything like this one, I know I’ll love them. It is a unique story, with all the pieces of the intricately crafted puzzle falling smoothly in place at the end.
You know, in most popular mysteries (the few that I have read, anyway) the whole plot has an increasing frenzy and is the build up to a fabulous, thrilling ending. If that is the kind of conclusion you like to your reads, this might seem disappointing, a let down. Because the ending is too simple. It is so simple, that it would sound far fetched to people who are used to that grand climax. It reminded me of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, for no reason other than how it made me feel; surprised and convinced, not to mention, wholly awed. It was impossible for me to have guessed it, but I know the answer had been right there all along, staring me in the face. The only disappointment I felt was for not having thought of it! 
But even if not the ending, there is so much to appreciate and be impressed by in this book. While still being a swift mystery, Black Dog is like a laid back character sketch of all sorts of people in your usual small town. I loved the quirky ones, of course, like Harry Dickinson. And I also liked Gwen, his wife, about whom Cooper was so right – some people just get miserably tangled in messes they don’t deserve to be in. Most of all, I liked Diane Fry; because she was so realistic. I liked how, as an outsider, she provided a neatly contrasting perspective on the rest of the team; one which I couldn’t easily dismiss as she was also one of the good guys. The drama in Cooper’s life was overwhelming and effectively justified the few character flaws in my mind (which made him much better than a conventional Lee Child-ish detective!) The book is wonderfully written, with hilarious comments at the most unexpected times and apt vivid descriptions that bring the setting to life. Mostly, I found Black Dog by Stephen Booth to be a perfect start to a series; which is something I hardly ever get to say. And Diane Fry and Ben Cooper do seem to make, possibly in spite of themselves, a pretty good team.
This Witness Impulse book counts as another R.I.P. Challenge read.

Darkness First by James Hayman

Darkness First by James Hayman is an entertaining read. The plot picks up right from the prologue and hurls you straight into a gruesome mystery involving a bunch of gory murders and drug thefts committed by an intelligent, merciless villain. 
Summary: The book opens with an elaborate drug theft, by a man who calls himself Conor Riordan. He is the man who never was. No one knows who he really is and he doesn’t hesitate to tie up loose ends, killing off anyone who could reveal his identity. Detective Maggie Savage of Portland PD gives her father, Sheriff John Savage a visit, when the mutilated body of Tina Stoddard is found in her hometown and her best friend is severely injured in the same attack. Back home, as the case progresses, Maggie learns that her wayward ex-Army younger brother, being the victim’s boyfriend, is one of the prime suspects. As her colleagues seemingly fight over who gets to bag the case, Maggie seeks help from her partner in Portland, Detective Michael McCabe. Together they try to save the one person who has seen the killer: eleven year old Tabitha Stoddard.
My thoughts: The book has everything it needs to be a popular whodunit: a badass heroine with a unique name, a mostly attractive cast (one of them looks like McNulty, except with blue eyes), partners with that sexual tension and a swift pace. I like how the book develops quickly, but there aren’t too many action scenes and entirely unexpected plot turns. It makes a rare combination of fast and realistic. The story is pretty much straightforward but there is never a dull moment, either. Unfortunately, that means the red herrings are easy to spot and the climax isn’t quite as climactic as one would hope. And I suppose the book could have done without the crimes from the killer’s point of view: they are far too sadistic for my taste and don’t really tell anything that we don’t find out from the crime scene descriptions. 
Can there be well written stereotypes? Because that is what these characters are. Their lives, though predictable, are very engaging, I have to admit. I liked Maggie Savage. McCabe, who apparently has a series in his name, didn’t make much of an impression on me. He is clearly an all-round good guy, but I can make out little about him from this book. It is only when it comes to the rapport between Maggie and McCabe that I realize I’m missing something: the book doesn’t work as a standalone if you focus on these two. The rest of the series might tell me more about them. I like Harlan Savage too, and I am curious about his character in the rest of the Maggie Savage-series. My favourite, most wonderfully portrayed character from Darkness First is Tabitha, the determined little girl who is so much more innocent than she lets on. 
I appreciate that the book doesn’t end abruptly, right after the mystery is solved. The clarifications and follow-ups in the final chapter, which you’d call the denouement if you were pretentious and boring, work well. They certainly give you more to think about than the rest of the book. But the fact is, there is no real message to the book, nothing seems to have left a lasting impression on me. It’s great, not amazing. It is an engrossing read, but I am not going to rush off to buy more. Read this if you love mysteries unconditionally!
Another R.I.P. Challenge read (another mystery; I haven’t read enough horror this year!)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. Impulse is an exciting new imprint from William
Morrow/HarperCollins publishing suspense and thriller digital originals. Get your hands on all Witness Impulse books here!

The Thing in the Forest by A.S. Byatt

Little Black Book of Stories tells five tales, which blend the ordinary with the absurd. The collection opens with a perfectly intriguing story, about the blurred edges of reality, called The Thing in the Forest.

It is the story of two girls, Penny and Primrose. It is set during the WWII, when children are evacuated from London to the country. The girls, who have nothing in common, other than this shared exclusion from the world, meet on the train and deciding to stick together, become friends.

At the estate, when the children are free to do as they please, Penny and Primrose decide to explore the forest. In it, they see, or think they see, a thing. A huge slimy worm-like creature right out of a nightmare. It doesn’t harm them and they never speak of it again. But this sudden exposure to the uncanny, the evil changes the girls forever. Each finds her own way to deal with the loss of childhood innocence till their paths cross again, and the women meet in the very forest years later.

“They remembered the thing they had seen in the forest in the way you remember those very few dreams – almost all nightmares – which have the quality of life itself, not of fantasm, or shifting provisional scene-set. (Though what are dreams if not life itself?) In the memory, as in such a dream, they felt, I cannot get out, this is a real thing in a real place.”

“I think, I think there are things that are real – more real than we are – but mostly we don’t cross their paths, or they don’t cross ours. Maybe at very bad times we get into their world, or notice what they are doing in ours.”

Ever since I read Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, I’ve been in awe of A.S. Byatt’s wordsmithery. Even in this story, she paints vivid pictures with her prose. Her writing prods each of our senses. She has a way with colours, describing darkness as nothing but the colour of ink and elephant; contrasting the golden and darkly shadowed light in the woods with the light in city terraces, and naming toadstools, some scarlet, some ghostly-pale and some a dead-flesh purple. With a delightfully rich imagination, Byatt describes feelings that run over our skin, pricking and twitching; primroses that smell of thin, clear, spring honey without the buzz of summer; and Penny, in the woods, hearing a tremulous shiver in the darkness, and her own heartbeat in the thickening brown air. But the vivid detailing is, appropriately, only part of the charm.

Like in Ragnarok, in this story, Byatt portrays children just as they are: naughty and innocent, with more understanding than any adult could fathom, imaginative, curious and daring and having their own personal reality. The story weaves together themes of war, innocence, dreams, faith, dealing with loss, grief and finding our place in the world. It’s a coming-of-age story; slightly too abstract, perhaps, to appeal to all; but worth reading.

Byatt’s works are categorized as fantasy, but seem to me to be a genre-defying combination of magic realism, naturalism and gothic horror. The Thing in the Forest and two other stories from the collection, The Stone Woman and The Pink Ribbon, have a blatantly mythic, supernatural element. The Stone Woman is a bit too vague for my taste, but will be adored by geology and Icelandic mythology enthusiasts. The Pink Ribbon is about a man who is haunted by a sort of memory of his wife, who now has Alzheimer’s. The other two stories, Body Art and Raw Material, not fantasy nor horror, portray the tragic mundane of our lives with overwhelming honestly. Together, the five stories form another great read by (and, possibly, a nice introduction to) my favourite short story writer.

Reviewed for Peril of the Short Story – the R.I.P. Challenge.

Joyland by Stephen King

Summary: Saying Joyland by Stephen King is a mix of a horror story and a crime novel wouldn’t be quite right: it’s the kind of book that you couldn’t squeeze into one genre. It is about twenty-one year old, mopey, just-broken-up-with-his-first-love Devin Jones who does a summer job at an amusement park, Joyland (where they sell fun.) On his first day, two mysterious things happen. One: Madame Fortuna, the resident fortune teller and an apparent psychic, predicts that Devin would meet two important children during his work at Joyland, one of them with the Sight. Two: Devin hears of the ghost that haunts the park’s only dark ride, Horror House. A little sleuthing leads him to the tragic murder of Linda Gray, by a man who slit her throat and dumped her in the darkest part of the amusement ride; the murderer was never caught. Intrigued by the stories, slightly suicidal after his break-up, Devin finds himself turning his summer stint at Joyland into a full time job. And that is when he meets Annie Ross and her ten-year-old, Mike, who knows he is going to die, just the way he somehow knows so many other things.
My thoughts: This book was so sweet. It reminded me of how 11.22.63 made me feel at the end and if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. It was deeply moving. Joyland was another one of those reads that show that Stephen King writes more than ‘scary stories’. This was not another book of gory monsters written for those with the emotional range of a teaspoon (know who said that? give yourself a pat on the back!) Nor just another whodunit where the story ends fair and happy when the smart detective figures out who the killer is.

The book was written in a nostalgic tone, as Devin, now old described the most memorable times of his youth. It was almost ruefully funny at times and sad and scary, at others. I adored Mike, the little crippled boy so full of hope. In a way, he might have reminded me of Danny Torrance (so many other Goodreads reviewers say the same thing) for his ability, but somehow he left a much greater impression on me. I liked the people of Joyland, all strange, hilarious and thoroughly lovable; from Fortuna to the owner, the cute old man Bradley Easterbrook. Not to mention, Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook; the young promises and friendships were wonderfully dealt with. Throughout, I could visualize Joyland and its carny lingo, its employees taking turns at ‘wearing the fur’ and being Happy Howie, the German shepherd mascot, the spooky lore and the large Ferris wheel, Carolina Spin, which made you feel like you were flying. The mystery itself was noirish and played out roughly: the ‘answer’ which ought to satisfy you, just left me drained.

Mostly, Joyland by Stephen King was a gritty, brutally honest coming-of-age novel. Read it as a book about growing up and tackling life as it comes, and you might love it.

I read this because I finally found it, yay. But also maybe for the R.I.P. Challenge. I’m just biding time now till my copy of Dr. Sleep arrives.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

A little more than a year ago, I read this review of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson on Vishy’s Blog. The review made it sound like the most fascinating book and if not anything else, it is certainly that.

It is difficult to write a summary for a book that winds so many stories together, but I’ll try. The book opens with the life-altering car crash of our narrator, once a hardcore porn-star and a junkie. He survives, but his body is almost irreparably burnt. While recovering in the burn ward of a hospital, alone and grotesque, the pain drives him to a point where the only relief is the idea of suicide. With the same suddenness with which the narrator describes his accident, he introduces us to the character central to his story: Marianne Engel, a beautiful apparent schizophrenic, a sculptress of gargoyles, who believes not only that she is seven hundred years old but that she’s our narrator’s true love. She insists that they were lovers in medieval Germany; he, a badly burnt mercenary; and she, a nun, who nursed him back to health. Tacky as it may sound, with little to do but suffer the extensive treatment for his injury, our narrator immerses himself into the tales of love and God that the strange Marianne tells him; intrigued by the accuracy and consistency of her delusions. Under the care of his physiotherapist, the cheerful Sayuri, and his doctor Nan Edwards, with the help of an unlikely friend, a shrink, and the increasingly mysterious Marianne Engel, our narrator’s condition slowly improves. When he is released from the hospital, the narrator moves in with Marianne, and realizes for the first time the true extent of her mania.

“If a man says that God is wise, the man is lying because
anything that is wise can become wiser. Anything that a man might say about God
is incorrect, even calling Him by the name of God. The best a man can do is to remain silent, because any time
he prates on about God, he is committing the sin of lying. The true master
knows that if he had a God he could understand, he would never hold Him to be
God.”

Now let me just say I like the book. Looking back on the 200-something pages, I can say with certainty that I’m glad I read them. You’ll find many reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or your favourite book-lovers’ haunt that describe just how charming, intelligently crafted, poetic, hauntingly beautiful the book is. I am intrigued by Davidson’s imagination. The historical life of Marianne, growing up as a scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal, is a wonderful blend of languages, art and literature. The culinary delights that she prepares for the narrator in the present day are appropriately delightful. The tales Marianne narrates, of everyone from Vikings to proper Victorian ladies, are an added charm. As I said, I like the book; but I don’t quite love it. Though it had everything it needed to be properly splendid, the book just never fully held my attention.
I get the appeal for the book. The setting, the eerie writing, the mysticism, the switching timelines are reminiscent of writers like Patrick Sueskind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, A. S. Byatt. The narrator’s oddly modern cynicism and abrupt sense of humour, the way the narrator talks, reminds me, for some reason, of China Mieville, though the content of this book rarely resembles his. The writing style, however, seems far too forced, like the author is mimicking his favourite writers; almost like a child who reads Enid Blyton writing about mean, horrid grown-ups and children who say things like, “Goodness me!” Apart from the stories Marianne tells, which are truly nice, there is little story-telling; only disconnected scenes strung together to form a brittle ‘plot’. Few ‘chapters’, if they could be called that, are longer than a page. The theme of the book is, as is to be expected, redemption. But the part where the message of the book becomes most evident is rushed. Dante’s Inferno, the circles of Hell are woven into the story, but even that story line remains, though imperceptibly, rough at the edges. While the author spends a long time working out an intricate history for all characters, their minds are superficial at best. The sudden change in the narrator and his view of the world, his abrupt lack of skepticism, the complete wiping away of the effects of his past, though brought on by a doubtlessly tragic incident, are sketchy at best. Marianne, who has so much potential, comes dangerously close to becoming an empty silhouette of a character; just a stereotype. Sayuri is an interesting character, her story adds a welcomed dash of bubbling humanity to the book, but even the ending the author presents her seems little more than a tying up of loose ends. The doctor is another stereotype I’d rather not dwell on. My favourite character is Jack Meredith, ’nuff said.
Despite the lengthy criticism, I do think the book is worth reading. It is certainly rather unique. It’s not long, and though it sometimes loses momentum, if you like history, magical realism, dark fantasy, mythology, art, specifically grotesques, give The Gargoyle a chance.

I think the book fits The Historical Fiction Challenge better than it does the R.I.P. Challenge, though the latter is the one I originally read it ‘for’. 

Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann

I read an interview the other night, by the author, Elizabeth Buhmann, where she points out that there are many supposed criminals who are exonerated after spending years in jail, when brand new forensic evidence is discovered with modern technology. The obvious conclusion is that the eye-witnesses who put them behind bars must have been mistaken; the idea that they could have lied is pathetic and horrible and yet, it makes you curious. With that as the framework, the author has constructed a hell of a mystery.
Summary: Twenty years ago, Kate Cranbrook’s eyewitness testimony sent
the wrong man to prison for rape and murder. When new evidence exonerates him,
Kate says that in the darkness and confusion, she must have mistaken her
attacker’s identity. She is lying. Kate would like nothing better than to turn
her back on the past, but she is trapped in a stand-off with the real killer.
When a body turns up on her doorstep, she resorts to desperate measures to free
herself once and for all from a secret that is ruining her life.
My thoughts: This hugely unpredictable book left me at a loss for words. Picture me shaking my head in an unlikely combination of disgust and awe. The heroine, if you could even call her that, is a severely prejudiced compulsive liar with no redeeming qualities and an obvious inferiority complex: difficult to care for and excruciatingly true to life. 
The story took its own sweet time to kick off and during that time, I couldn’t relate to Kate, Pop, Tony or any of the other characters. It was only after almost half the book that I really started wondering about the truth, about what could really have happened, whether Kate knew the actual murderer, why she lied. When the last fifty pages were left, the mystery that was brewing slowly but steadily up to that point had begun bubbling with frenzy, quite ready to end in a fancy display of sparkly firecrackers: when I thought, the book was going to let me down. What could possibly go down in fifty pages that would make it all better!? The ending had to be a disappointment. BUT I was wrong. The climax was so… climactic. Deliciously surprisingly, wonderfully unceremonious and the ONLY reason I considered, if grudgingly, the possibility that I liked the book, after all. I loved how neatly the pieces of the puzzle fit together. 
I couldn’t stop thinking about the book, long after I was done reading; wondering about truth, innocence and mistakes, about how easy it is to be selfish, how no matter what people say, there is a big difference between good and bad, how you write your own destiny, about justice and the law and racism and for once, a female ‘antagonist’.
I don’t recall being in a loathe/love situation before. With Lay Death at Her Door, I’m going to go with LOVE! But it was a close call. While I admire how the author somehow managed to wholly engross me in the story of such a horrible person, I’m not sure if I can sit patiently through another such read. One thing, however, is for sure, like it or not, Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann is a murder mystery like no other.

This counts as another R.I.P Challenge read.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author.

The Dark by James Herbert

Honestly, I didn’t know James Herbert was renowned for horror, when I bought The Dark at this book sale at a ridiculously small price. I’ve read quite a few horror books, but only a few by each author; except, of course, Stephen King: but I couldn’t help that, he’s written too many books. I’ve begun, overtime, to associate horror with Stephen King. But I’ve gotten used to his style of writing. This was a good change; a little more raw, absurd, wild; a less focused on individual characters. It wasn’t like the books or movies that you’d consider to be stereotypes of the genre. It did not have the usual formulaic plot characteristic of the horror-chiller genre: strange huge house; new residents, initially skeptics; a child, woman from the family becomes a sort of medium, seances and exorcism reveal that someone had died there in some sort of excruciatingly brutal and unjust manner.  The book reminded me of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story for having a similar villain, it had the cult-ish vibe of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Lovecraft) and it was much like a 28 Days Later, society-breaks-down adventure!
Summary: The book opens with Chris Bishop, a ghost-hunter hired by the estate agents, entering an old house, Beechwood, to find thirty one mangled corpses. In the house and especially in the cellar, the black darkness seems like a force of its own. Terrified of the increasingly cold, uneasy atmosphere, Bishop runs away from the house. A while later, he is found on the street, unconscious and with no memory of what he witnessed and how he got out. Almost a year (I think?) after the Beechwood mass suicide incident, Bishop is approached by Jessica Kuleck and father, parapsychic Jacob Kulek to investigate three seemingly unrelated murders in one night that happened on the same road, Willow Road, as Beechwood house. Along with Edith Metlock, who is a medium and the father and daughter, with the reluctant permission of the house owner, Bishop, our cynical ghost-chaser, sets off to Beechwood to conduct an investigation. Following a perverse, gory vision Bishop has and an attack by a crazed woman, Beechwood is set to be torn down. But when it is demolished, the dark that was once contained in the house is released, as a powerful and seductive evil energy possesses the world, manipulating its victims to insanity.
The Dark is your classic fight between good and evil, light and dark offered with a twist. It brings up the question of what evil really is and whether it is a part of our minds or a stage in our lives. It also goes beyond a usual good trumps evil ending and concludes in a most amazing, though not entirely unexpected, fashion. The explanation behind the malevolent force that enters people’s minds at night, that they call the Dark, was intriguing and unique. The science meets parapsychology aspect of the book was fascinating and well constructed. A recurring theme in The Dark is that the paranormal is quite normal; we just haven’t understood it yet: it continues, predictably, with a wink and a, “but some of us might have already understood it”, but that’s getting into details that I don’t want to spoil for you.
I loved the book for the ideas and the theme. What I do feel is, the book could have been condensed. There was too much mayhem for the sake of describing mayhem. Some of it I got, but most of it was written with a disturbing relish, making me wonder, which side the author really was on. Limbs being torn off, throats being sliced open, people being raped, throttled to death, poured gasoline on and set to fire: there was too much crude and unnecessarily detailed violence for my taste. You know how King starts Under the Dome introducing us to a woman who dies within a couple of minutes, anyway and plays no part in the rest of the book? Just to shock us? This happens more times that you could count in The Dark. I suppose I got to know the people and understand the terrific evil inside them, even when it was just a spark of darkness; but mostly, it just disgusted me. The book could have been a hundred pages shorter (mine is four hundred and fifty pages long.) and would have still been a harrowing but fascinating journey. Also, though Bishop is shown to grow as a character, becoming considerably more open-minded over the course of the book, I found it a bit annoying that he (the writer) still referred to Edith as ‘the medium’ till the very end. 
The writing is by no means literary or verbose, it is almost a little dated, but it’s immensely engaging. I read the book in one day and I do see myself reading more books by James Herbert. You should give this a try, if you aren’t weak minded or easily bothered by gore.
The Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge is back, I think this is my third year participating. The Dark is my first book for R.I.P. VIII and there are many more to come!