Guardian by John Saul

rating
(No Series)
  HORROR


MaryAnne Carpenter has a hell of a life at first, with a jerk husband who previously left her for another woman and now wants to return home, two young children to raise, and a small pitiful house with an even smaller, pitiful bank account. While going over in her mind whether she should let the two-timing slug come back into their lives, or whether she could really stand the loneliness, she gets a disturbing call that sets the fate of horror in motion. Her best friend and husband have been killed in bizarre accidents, and she has to take her two children and herself up to Idaho to take care of the now orphaned godson. The godson Joey, however, may not be what he seems, as his odd changes in behavior start in show. Rumors begin flying around about a mountain man murdering campers nearby, and as winter begins steadily approaching, MaryAnne is left wondering if she should stay or flee.



I've always enjoyed John Saul, and I like how he made the 'child-horror' theme his own. When you're dealing with kiddos, things can get more emotional. Here it's hard to know what to think of Joey, but I liked how it ended and wrapped things up with the character. Saul jumps from having the villain one-layered to being full fledged and sympathetic. There's not many cliche characters, although Saul seemed to have struggled a bit with the parents. The standard jerk father is overboard and not terribly convincing, while MaryAnne doesn't seem that bright.

The book's pace is great, starting right away with personal angst and tragedy, ending with great loss and astounding grief, leaving the door ominously open for a potential sequel. From a fear factor point of view, suspense was there but there was never much that was too frightening. More violence wouldn't have hurt, but the violence that was there counted in a semi-chilling way, even if it was not gory and was short-cut. One death in particular was very surprising and emotionally gripping.

On the negative side, the book isn't the most believable story for it's setting, ruined in part by some of the mother's actions. Sometimes things slow a bit to where they could be helped with a spruced up death sequence, or else more hints laying with Joey and his involvement in it all. If Saul had included more government agencies or anything along those lines, the book may have picked up a more intelligent high. In the end it was a fun read though, a light horror book that took an interesting twist on an age-old horror theme. I won't give away what that theme was for fear of spoiling the 'mountain-man murders', but I liked how this small surprise was saved for the end. I for one would enjoy a sequel.

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