THE ELEMENTALS BY MICHAEL MCDOWELL

rating
(No Series)
  HORROR

After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama's Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier - and is now ready to kill again . . .


When reading this, expect to go between dry humor and subtle creepiness.

Unusual characterization makes the book stand out as much as the plot does. I’ve never seen a father-daughter relationship like Luker and his daughter India. It’s not possible to describe well – he hates his ex-wife and she hates her mother, and they don’t care either. I’m guessing he does what is right and loves his daughter but has much more of a friend than father relationship – they swear comfortably in front of each other, talk about any adult subject under the sun, and he even serves her alcohol drinks when he’s having one (she’s 13.) Strange but it’s not a deterrence from the story.

Most of the family was humorous - Odessa the maid played a large role but was the only actual cliché of the group. She irritated me with overdoing calling India child, almost every sentence. Big Barbara as the mother – and yes, she’s really called Big Barbara through the whole book – amused me with her overdone dialogue, behaviors, and emotions. I think the author had fun playing with the southern coyness and drama when making these paper-people. He certainly overindulges in exclamation marks when they’re talking…

The book takes too long to get off, I think, which explains the lower rating. It was never boring, but would have improved with a little speeding up after awhile.

Some genuinely eerie scenes and he excels with the way he words subtle horror. I do wonder if there was something supernatural about that place which made them so addicted to it and reluctant to leave before the sand really hit the fan? Once they knew it was too dangerous they were eager to go, but before that extreme reluctance, an almost fanatical devotion to the place. Was it because of appearance only? It was slow and isolated, dull, and merciless with heat otherwise. I'm not sure I get the last paragraph fully.

Overall a good horror novel that doesn’t rehash tired old plots. It’s supernatural but I haven’t seen something like this done before. Tense scenes are riveting and creepy, not predictable, drawn out to be the most effective. Recommended if you’re in the mood for a different sort of haunt/spook tale.


   Reviews for other horror novels:

http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/strangers-simon-clark.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/endless-night-by-richard-laymon.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/lost-and-found-ruby-jean-jensen.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/phantoms-dean-koontz.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/university-bentley-little.html

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