Monday, March 21, 2011

11 PM Book Review: No Doors, No Windows

No Doors, No Windows is by Joe Schreiber, who writes short, smooth little horror thrillers with a really crawly creep factor.

No Doors, No Windows finds Scott Mast back home in small town America for his father's funeral. His alcoholic brother can barely take care of his precocious nephew, but Scott's about to go back to his succesful job writing greeting cards on the coast when he finds pages from a novel manuscript written by his assumedly unimaginative father. The manuscript leads Scott to a haunted house mentioned in it, which leads to our protagonist renting the haunted house and trying to finish his dad's haunted novel. He's stopped taking his meds, and his research on the house's history seems to indicate that his whole family has a history of mental instability that goes back generations.

I liked how the scenario starts sleightly off, with the funeral and the dysfunctional family. Each detail the author adds: the house in the manuscript turning out to be real, the dead girl in the blue dress, the ex suddenly showing up, the revelation that she dumped him cold without an explanation when they were set to leave town together, the once beautiful town matriarch addicted to plastic surgery... each bit just adds tension and an element of creepy, until the weird is rattling around in the story like a loose bolt in a dune buggy. I also really relished that the house showes up in many generations of his family's art, like a bad thought they are trying to exorcise.

I felt like you couldn't tell if the protagonist was haunted or nuts until close to the end, and I'm not going to tell you which. I do think Joe mines interesting territory, setting a presumably modern illness in the remote past. The ending seemed like it got wrapped up a little too neatly. Perhaps that was because over the course of the story your feelings about the protagonist are muddied: should you be afraid for him, or of him? That's often par for the course in horror, but I wanted a little more emotional certainty about the outcome. Otherwise, it was a creepy, fun, quick read.

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