Review Date: Monday, February 16, 2009
William Peter Blatty, author of “The Exorcist”, returns to the horror genre with a story that is more subtle than that classic novel, but by no means less powerful. This is a story in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting” or Richard Matheson’s “Hell House” in that the horror and atmosphere build slowly as psychological stress builds upon the inhabitants.
Joan Freeboard is a well-to-do New York City real estate agent who lives a lavish lifestyle. Her friends are the respected socialite types: artists, writers, etc… Joan has recently found a mansion named Elsewhere that can earn her a killing in commission if she can sell the place. The only problem is the house, located out on an island off Manhattan, is rumored to be haunted. Joan hatches a plot to get the house sold. She brings in a respected paranormal investigator, Gabriel Case, and a renowned psychic, Anna Trawley, to investigate the house and hopefully clear its reputation. She also enlists the aid of her close friend, writer Terrence Dare, to be her witness and document the events, and put to rest anyone’s doubts about the mansion.
All arrive at the island and begin their investigation. It’s not long before the house grabs a hold of each visitor in its own unique way, preying on each of their insecurities. Soon the phones and television go dead and then Joan is shaken to her core to find she can no longer see Manhattan from the island, as if it had completely disappeared. It’s a classic haunted house mood with strange sounds and apparitions. Blatty is so skillful at working his spell upon the characters that you are not sure whether they are really seeing and hearing ghosts, or if their sanity is breaking down.
The characters are fresh and witty and their banter is often hilarious, dripping with sarcasm, especially as Joan and Terrence trade barbs at each other. The novel seems even shorter than its two hundred plus pages as Blatty keeps the pace up tempo throughout. Blatty throws numerous curveballs at the reader and saves his best pitch for the book’s shocking climax that every good horror book should have. A quick read but one that is perfect for a dark and stormy night…or a bright sunny day, whichever you prefer!
Mania Grade: B+
Written By: William Peter Blatty
Publisher: Cemetery Dance