Honest, I'm not just trying to soothe my own ego - prevent damage to the poor fragile things. I'm going on what I've been told. A lot of these were rejected because I'd send in two or three reviews to editors who only wanted one so they could pick the best for them. And the others languished. Until now. I'm going to post them one by one. So here goes, first one up - second if you count last night's but that's different. I wrote it for this blog.
I.E. Lester - Review of Amber Benson and Christopher Golden - The Seven Whistlers
Rose Kerrigan, Mike Richards and Alan & Jenny Bryce live in the small New England town of Kingsbury. Although they have day to day issues, they live quiet, generally happy lives and have settled into a routine, including regular get-togethers at the town pub, the Pennywhistle. But, as this is a horror novel, you know this tranquillity is not going to last.
Rose is the first person to notice the changes -she sees two large black dogs tear apart a stag in the woods behind her parents' cabin. She is not the last. At the same time a series of accidents and misfortunes begin to happen.
It's the way that the foreboding builds that is the book's real strength. The presence of the dogs increasing steadily in number towards becoming the Seven Whistlers of the book's title is handled well, without being too obvious, but it’s the misfortunes that really increase the menace. They suggest an evil atmosphere is overcoming the whole town.
This is exactly the kind of set-up and delivery you would expect in a Stephen King novel - same kind of town, same kind of social group, and same kind of underlying sense of increasing dread. The main difference between the two is page length. Stephen King would have spent over one hundred pages setting the scene, introducing the characters and giving them back-story before any action really started. By the time King would have hinted that all is not right in small-town paradise, this book has already finished.
And it's that shortness that is the quite-literal shortcoming of the book. The setting is superb, Kingsbury is a perfect horror town. The group of friends are convincing, as are the supporting characters we meet along the way. And the horror of the tale - the hell-hounds are suitably menacing and a pleasant change from some of the so-called scary monsters I've read too often.
But this needs more length, more time to tell the story. I've read so many books over the years and have thought on many occasions that books are just too long. That they are padded to suit the 500-page liking of the best seller charts in bookstores and supermarkets, as though the old adage "Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width" has become a reality of publishing. But for once I wish the authors had made this longer. This is a good read at 143 pages, but I feel 300 pages would have made it a great read.