Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > House of Reckoning

House of Reckoning by John Saul
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's review
Aug 27, 2010

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bookshelves: horror, advanced-reading-copy
Read in October, 2009

This is the first John Saul book I have ever read although I had listened to one in audio book format. That one had a great premise but seemed somewhat clumsy in its execution and even boring. The boring nature of it could have been a by-product of the audio book production as that does sometimes happen. So in my never ending search for good horror writing, I thought I'd give him another chance.

"House of Reckoning" has a fairly standard premise for a horror tale. A 14-year old girl named Sarah is hit by a drunk driver (who happens to be her father) and since her mother has already passed away, she is put into a foster home while her father has to go to jail. Sarah now has a disability and walks with a limp. We learn of her amazing artistic ability and we meet a fellow student of hers, named Nick who hears voices. Then there is Sarah's art teacher who lives alone in an old house that used to be an insane asylum. Of course all of this intertwines and we experience a pretty typical haunted house sort of story. These three characters must come together because everybody else in the town is a one dimensional, sterotypical character who delights in teasing a 14 year old girl with a limp and proclaiming the art teacher who lives in the old house, a "witch".

The story reads easily and the plot is straight forward and easy to follow. Definitely a quick read. Unfortunately, the novel abounds with problems. Chief among them is the way the charcters behave, especially the "bad" characters. Sarah's foster family makes Cinderella's step family look like angels. They treat Sarah like a slave, demanding total obedience in all things while they kick back with their feet up. They proclaim their Christianity and blame Sarah and the devil inside her for everything that goes wrong. How stereotypical can you get? The rest of the town includes the power hungry sherriff, his son who happens to be the school bully, etc. all of which make fun of Sarah the "gimp". The concept of the haunted house, itself, had potential as a great character in its own right, and it does take matters into its own hands, so to speak. I won't provide spoilers but suffice it to say that the great concept that the author begins never really pans out. When it comes time for the horror to shine through, it's rather dull. Events are wrapped up in a tidy manner, just so conveniently that one wonders if the author was approaching the word count limit.

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