Of the Graham Masterton books I have read, this one drew me in and held my attention from beginning to end better than any of them. I love a good haunOf the Graham Masterton books I have read, this one drew me in and held my attention from beginning to end better than any of them. I love a good haunted house story, big creepy houses hold so many possibilities. The book starts out strong, we have a jerk named Craig who is a pretentious lawyer type who manages to get himself into some fairly gory trouble. Flash forward to his loving wife taking him on a trip to help him "sort himself out." There they stumble across Valhalla, the monstrous home built by Jack Belias, a rampant gambler and all around bad man. Mr. Belias was kind enough to "disappear" off of the face of the earth prior to their arrival so the mansion is falling apart. The locals think it's haunted, it's full of scary rooms, and suddenly Craig becomes obsessed with owning the house, much to his wife's chagrin. Bad things start to happen (don't they always at this point?) so Effy the lovely wife enlists the town's local hippy/herbalist to help her understand what is going on. Sounds promising! Especially when you add to it a string of murders!
"The House that Jack Built" is very well written, fairly gory, filled with sex (note to other female horror fans - parts of this book are very degrading to women, but if you can make it past that, the ending makes up for it) and violence. Unlike the other Masterton books, the ending on this one did not feel like a "rush job" it was well thought out and a fairly satisfying completion of the tale. What many of the other reviewers are saying is true, there are many "needless" deaths in the book, though I believe some of them are there to show some characterization by how the deaths are reacted to.
There are two things that kept this from being a 5 star book. The first is that it wasn't scary... sure it was bloody, and you cringe at some of what you are reading, but you won't have any problem turning out the lights at night. The second (and some may consider this a spoiler, but its brought up fairly early in the book so I don't really consider it one) is the long and repetitive bashing over the head the reader gets about the theories on time, and time travel, and possession. I would have been happier had this just been a simple ghost rather than sit through a metaphysical diatribe on "Psychic Vibrations" and "time being a book." Honestly the idea of it all really detracted from my reading, especially since it kept being brought up over and over again. Still, you can skim those parts once they show up and really enjoy the book. I thought this was an excellent read... perhaps it didn't entirely capitalize on it's potential, but it was still a fun time....more
I know Masterton has some rabid fans out there that will blast me for this... but this book should have been much better than it turned out to be. FirI know Masterton has some rabid fans out there that will blast me for this... but this book should have been much better than it turned out to be. First the short spoiler free synopsis:
Man gets divorced, loses business, takes son and gets a job renovating a house that is for sale. According to local towns people the house is both haunted and the home of a rat type creature that has something to do with disappearing children. Random squatter girl shows up to squat in the haunted house, man and child invite her to say, scary things start to happen. End Synopsis
Masterton has an excellent way of inducing panic in the reader, he is very good at making the house creepy, the sounds scary, and to make the hair on your arms prickle up. This is my first Masterton book, and I am very impressed with his handle on atmosphere. He also has a fairly good story here with the ability to draw on some of the Lovecraftian themes that he seems to be going after. Between the atmosphere and the plot this book should have been 4-5 stars no problem.
But we do have a problem... for all of Masterton's talent in the areas of atmosphere and plot... he is severely lacking in the intelligent character department. First off, there is no way that anyone would have stayed (keep in mind there is a small child here) in that house after people started dropping dead. Second... this entire book takes place in less than a week, which, I'm sorry the relationships that develop and are apparently so important to the story, cannot have developed in that time frame. 17-18 year old girls don't immediately fall in love with mid 30 year old guys with no money, no real job, and a kid just so they can squat in a house. The choices the characters make border on ludicrous, almost as if they have all completely lost their minds. They are like lemmings chit chatting before leaping off the cliff...
My second grip is that the ending was extremely rushed, Masterton had been so careful with the atmosphere and the mood that I was almost able to forgive the idiot characters, until we hit the homestretch in the book... from there it seems like he jammed about 150 pages worth of material into 50, and his strong points of atmosphere and plot lost out.
Still, despite my complaints, this book does have merit. I do plan on reading another by him in the near future. He has a tremendous grasp on manipulating the reader through atmosphere... I hope that in his other books his characters will be stronger....more