Review of Graham Masterton - Death Mask

Graham Masterton has built a reputation over the past three decades for hard-hitting, easy-to-read horror novels. He might not be talked about in the same breath as Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but he's reliable. You know you are not going to get a bad book if it has Masterton's name on the cover.

And here, that's exactly what you get - a book that's not bad. It's got the usual touches of Masterton horror violence - just enough to satisfy without descending into seemingly endless descriptions of limbs being ripped off. The characters are pleasant, fully rounded. And the plot is reasonably interesting, reasonably well paced - building nicely from an easy start to a well-structured conclusion.

But it's nothing more. Masterton has done better than this - much better. The plot crux is a little too obvious. If you start with an artist, Molly Sawyer, drawing a rose that miraculously comes to life you just know that her drawing a sketch of a murderer responsible for the brutal slaying of a man and serious injury of a young woman is not going to go well.

So when the attacks increase, and the police seem unable to find the killer, it is a little obvious that perhaps, just perhaps, Molly's sketch has also, like her roses, left the page and become alive. Add to this a mother-in-law who's a bit witchy (tarot cards always in hand) and a husband who's the stereotype of scepticism and this seems a little lazy.

That said though, it's not bad! For it's faults this book is easy to read. It is easy to sympathise with the good guys, easy to want them to somehow defeat the undefeatable evil. It has enough slight twists along the way, a small surprise or two just to keep you on your toes, and a feel good ending.

It may, on some levels, be a bit of a paint-by-numbers style formulaic horror novel, but Masterton's skill for horror and the ease of reading of his prose have made this a relaxing, entertaining read - a good pick for lazy summer days when something more challenging wouldn't suit the mood.

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