I’d hoped to post a review of each of the books I’d read as a result of their mention in the essential Paperbacks from Hell, but after doing four, life got in the way. To catch up, here are some capsule reviews.
SUCH NICE PEOPLE
by Sandra Scoppettone
I really liked this book in which a schizophrenic son turns on his family. Varied characters, each with their own storyline, all headed off in their own directions until orders from SOLA take the Christmas holiday in the wrong direction. Some surprises during its climax, and well worth reading.
by Thomas Tryon
The author of The Other turns his attentions to a small New England town that operates according to ye olde principles. A fine novel that would make a good companion piece/counterbalance to The Stepford Wives.
by Gene Thompson
I had this “evil kid” book when I was an evil kid, and to be honest, I only read the sex and violence bits back then. Reading the whole thing as an adult, I found it entertaining but silly, and the main character is irritating, coming across as wishing washy and whinny. Her husband also does a 180 part way through the novel that feels beyond forced. A decent time waster, but not a particularly good book.
by Andrew Neiderman
The author of Pin torments a family when their brainy daughter decides to use them as a behavioural science experiment. Creepy and recommended.
by Joan Samson
Based on its positive reviews I had high hopes for this one, but I found it a slog. An auctioneer rolls into town and starts taking more than what is reasonable from the locals. I liked the premise, but I was so frustrated by everyone’s refusal to act that it lost me. Because this book has so many fans I recommend that people give it a go and make up their own minds.
WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US
by Elizabeth Engstrom
The version I read contained two Engstrom novellas, the titular story and Beauty is…. I loved them both. Darkness centres around a pregnant teenager who is trapped underground and the aftermath of her plight, while Beauty tells the story of an intellectually challenged woman with a facial disfigurement who begins to develop her intellect. What really struck me in both stories is that the true horror is found in the way the people around both women react to them.
by Ken Greenhall
A fan of Greenhall’s Elizabeth, I was looking forward to his follow up Hell Hound. It wasn’t a disappointment. Hell Hound tells the story of a psychopathic bull terrier - from the dog’s perspective - who makes his way from owner to owner until he meets his teenage equivalent. A terrific novel.
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR
by Anne Rivers Siddons
Nicely crafted novel about a cursed(?) house that is built next door to the home of Colquitt Kennedy and her husband, Walter. Lots of surprises and tension as the next-door neighbours come and go. Recommended.
by Graham Masterton
In this novel by the author of The Manitou, a traveling food critic attempts to bond with his distant teenage son by taking him on the road with him. A series of really unsettling surprises awaits them, including a well-connected cult of cannibals. Some silly bits don’t diminish its impact.
THE FLESH EATERS
by L.A. Morse
Based on the infamous and perhaps only fictional 16th century Scottish cave-dwelling cannibal family of Sawney Beane, this thin novel is a fast read that unfolds likes a list of depravities. Though reading it doesn’t make you feel like a pervert like reading Eat Them Alive does, whether or not you should get your mitts on a copy depends on how much the subject matter fascinates you. To that end… I read it. The Sawney Beane legend was reportedly the inspiration behind Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.
by James Herbert
Not to be confused with John Carpenter’s flick of the same name, this UK-set novel by the best-selling author of The Rats revolves around a government-devised gas that is released from the earth and leaves a trail of unfortunate and insane vapor-huffers in its path. A scramble to contain the fog and find an antidote for its effects ensues. Enjoyable, with a couple of truly gruesome set pieces, but I recommend the aforementioned rabid rodent book over this one.
by Kathe Koja
Short on plot, but tall on character, atmosphere and dread, The Cipher is a beautifully written novel about a hole that appears in the floor of an apartment building’s unused storage room, and the metaphysical transformations that occur when objects descend into it. Not only that, but what are the conditions necessary for these transformations to take place? At times this debut novel from Koja, which perfectly captures a certain kind of 1990s slacker lifestyle, reads like modern poetry, and I mean that in a good way. Recommended.