Monday, July 9, 2012

"The Haunted" by Bentley Little

So I am a big fan of Bentley Little - admittedly his earlier stuff is quite a bit better than the last few novels he's written, but I am not ready to write him off yet, either. I mean, this guy can sling straight-up horror like nobody writing today when he puts his mind to it, and he has written some of the best short stories and anthology contributions I have ever read (his Pop Star in the Ugly Bar is totally wretched and amazing - one of my personal favorites) and the dude is nothing if not prolific (I have made it a point to search out and snag any old copies of The Horror Show magazine that I can find on the off chance that I'll find some of his earlier stories that I haven't read yet.) Rarely have I come across something he's created that I truly didn't like, but I will admit that his last couple of novels (His Father's Son and The Disappearance) were easily among my least favorite.

All of that being said, I was really excited for The Haunted. I hit my local book store first thing on the 3rd, and I made the poor bookseller go dig around in the back for a copy of the book when I realized they hadn't made it onto the shelf yet. And I read it in a single setting.

 The Haunted is the story of the Perry family, who decides to upgrade their living situation by moving into a home in their city's historic district - ultimately this proves to be a bad decision as they find themselves sharing their space with a pretty malevolent presence. While I have to agree with previous reviewers that the story pretty much followed the standard haunted house sequence of events, in my opinion, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The actual progression of the haunting is only part of the story, and Little spends a good portion of time focusing on the psychological damage that living in an obviously haunted house does to the various members of the family as well - not to mention that many of the things that happen are pure, unadulterated Bentley Little - and that the book is written in his chill but intelligent style which makes it totally readable and even really funny when he wants it to be. Also, there is a well-incorporated back story that explains why what is going on is going on, which is just as interesting as the main plot.

When all was said and done, I liked The Haunted a lot. It kept me entertained, was scary enough, and I was satisfied with everything about it. Was it as brutal and horrifying as The University or as intelligent as Dominion? Nope. But it was solid, and far and away better than Little's last couple of books. If you are a fan of Bentley Little, you won't want to miss this one. And if you're not a fan yet, The Haunted is a decent place to acquaint yourself with Little's distinct horror flavor. 3 ½ stars.