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Saturday, April 28, 2012
Book Review House of Reckoning
House of Reckoning
Written by John Saul
Reviewed by Char Hardin
I have been a long-time fan of horror author John Saul, since I first read Nathanial in high school some twenty odd years ago. I love his “kill ‘em all” style. A few years ago, for a store promotion, I approached Mr. Saul for an autographed picture and told him, I understood if he did not want to participate, that I would still be a fan. I went on to say, how I loved his style and that after sitting two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic and wanting to kill someone myself, that I could relax, let him do the killing and fall asleep, my blood lust sated. He replied immediately with, “May I have your address Char?”
With his newest paperback novel, House of Reckoning, I started reading before Christmas and was disturbed not by the content, I was reading but the lack of that “killer” element, that I enjoy with his stories. The language was tame, the violence seemed restrained and at one point, I put the book down and wondered if this was meant to be John’s attempt at teen fiction? Surely he was not trying to reach a new age group. Leave the teen horror to teen authors, John!
House of Reckoning is in a nutshell Karma. The house was at one time a prison for criminally insane and later after closing the house, became home to one Bettina Phillips, whose great, great…you get the picture…grandfather was the warden of the prison. And some pretty twisted things happened under his term. Things that have come to haunt Bettina in her ancestral mansion and involve two special local teenagers and their parents, who all think Bettina Phillips is a witch. Instead of being just the pretty art teacher, Bettina happens to dabble in herbs, astrology and anything else, that pisses off the good Christian folks of Vermont.
Sarah Crane becomes a ward of the state, after father murders a man in a drunken rage that led her father to committing further harm to his daughter. It wasn’t bad enough for young Sarah that her mothers’ recent death should deal a harsh blow to the girl and her father, no, he has to take his sorrows to a bar and get in a fight that sends him straight to prison and lands Sarah into a foster home. Sarah carries her own physical burden and the new foster family, who only wants the money, the state pays them, to take her in. Sarah is welcomed in with smirks on lips and dollar signs in her foster parents’ eyes. No house of love for Sarah.
Nick Dunnigan is plagued with voices; that whisper to him night and day and drive his parents to put him in a mental institution. Not a permanent placing, but the one threat his father, Shep, holds over Nick’s head, that if he doesn’t tow the line, he will send him back. Nick’s mother, Lily, does everything to help her son, but the growing tension in her home is tearing her family apart. Nick finds no solace, until Sarah Crane. The voices stop when she is around. Nick and Sarah become entangled in a web of horror, deceit, and revenge. Karma takes a bite out of a few asses and through Bettina’s house a day of reckoning is had.
This story had such potential, but for me, it just fell flat and felt rushed at the end. I felt like I was reading a grown up fairy tale with censors. His language and content in all of his books is straight-up rated R, but in The House of Reckoning, felt like PG. I am disappointed, but not, giving up on him yet. Anyone can have a bad story, this time for me, it’s John Saul.