Friday, May 15, 2015

Ghost Child by Duffy Stein (from 1982)

There are few things I enjoy more than the smell of an old paperback.  I love visiting used book stores and searching for treasure on shelves that are packed tight with vintage books, many of which are all but forgotten.  I'm an equal opportunity reader who enjoys literature from a variety of genres and eras, and I'm am fully willing to delve into an intriguing non-fiction title or something a bit more fantastic.  Of course, my love for the horror genre is no secret, and curious gems like Ghost Child by Duffy Stein are my favorite sort of book to enjoy.  In many ways, this haunted house/possession/ghost story hits many familiar beats.  Yet it is also inventive and unique, and the author's unwillingness to pull any punches in the grim finale makes the more familiar aspects of the novel feel like an elaborate set-up in retrospect.  Yes, I thought I knew where we were headed, and I was mostly right on the count.  However, when it came to who would fall prey to the horrors lurking within the creepy old house in Vermont that the likable Talman family had moved into and who would survive, well, I guess I was being a bit too optimistic.  The violent and shocking conclusion was incredibly savage and far more diabolical than I anticipated.  I kept waiting for certain characters to wise up and they kept getting cut down, and I kept waiting for someone to arrive to save the day, but the characters who attempted to do just that weren't very successful.  The book got off to a slow start, but was creepy throughout, making deft use of standard horror fare (an old house with a gruesome history, spooky toys, and even a secret room) and sound characterizations.  Given the power and the sheer terror of the conclusion, I'm more than willing to recommend Ghost Child to those who enjoy this stuff as much as I do.  It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it is solidly entertaining, and the ending is a vicious assault on the senses.

Final Grade: B-

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