The Abandoned by Douglas Clegg

(No Series)

There is a dark and isolated mansion, boarded-up and avoided, on a hill just beyond the town of Watch Point in New York’s Hudson Valley. It has been abandoned too long and fallen into disrepair. It is called Harrow and it does not like to be ignored. But a new caretaker has come to Harrow. He is fixing up the rooms and preparing the house for visitors... What’s been trapped inside the house has begun leaking like a poison into the village itself. A teenage girl sleeps too much, but when she awakens her nightmares will break loose. A little boy faces the ultimate fear when the house calls to him. A young woman must face the terror in her past to keep Harrow from destroying everything she loves. And somewhere within the house a demented child waits with teeth like knives.

You know the feeling of anticipation you get when you pick up a book by a beloved writer, or watch a movie that's been hyped out the yang hole? Only to feel like you've swallowed a rock and the world will never look quite the same? I guess my over-dramatic personality is leaking in here, but you get the point. I'm a big fan of Douglas Clegg, the man can write captivating horror tales that can actually be creepy. Regrettably here I found rocky terrains instead, a ride that was anything but smooth, sending me to the nearest cabinet for an aspirin.

The plot? Unfortunately, the plot is bloated, congested, and confusing. After the beginning, the middle went downhill, with Clegg choosing to hop all over the place with characters and events. After a time this grew strange, then tiresome. I understand many writers now of days are trying to create confusing works that a reader can’t possibly put together until the end, I really do, but this isn’t the way to accomplish that. There was too much narrative distance from what was taking place, not enough emphasis on a certain person or event, just continuous changing. Sure, some of the ‘attacks’ were cool, creepy, etc, etc, but a reader has to have something to latch on to, to care about, in order to continue a story and keep the smile.

The pacing was semi strong but because of the plot’s direction and the method it was told, I just didn’t give a damn much of the time. In other words, just because you have things happening at a rapid pace doesn’t mean they have to be interesting. The atmosphere is dark and depressing, which is good for this type of work, but it also enhanced confusion the plot conveyed.

None of the characters were written badly, but I didn’t care about any of them. If I blinked, I’d forget who was who. They’re shown too briefly and come across ineffectual. The only exception is possibly the psychic woman and the writing teen, but even they didn’t rock my boat all that hard. Sam was a cool outcast type, but he shows up so briefly you forget he’s there.

On the plus side, Clegg’s writing style is as strong as ever. His words are confident, clear, and masterful. He usually ends a scene with some sort of dramatic note – I love when writers do this. The beginning of the book also intrigued me; the characters were well written then, the dialogue realistic, and I appreciated the nods toward horror films and directing masters. Great stuff for fans.

Before the first few chapters ended, he had a strong thing going. If he had stuck with the two main characters of Sam (he intrigued me more than the others, I was saddened he wasn’t used much) and Lizzie, this story may have worked. Instead he hopped around like crazy, even to more irrelevant characters, taking the reader down unneeded roads and weighing down the excitement. The middle was sogged down by too much ‘mystery, out-there enthusiasm’, and the end may have wrapped the book up well, but – well, by that point the reader’s mind is elsewhere.

If you’re new to Clegg’s work, I recommend starting with another novel. He really is a great writer, but I guess most have to have some stinkers in the barrel. This is obviously one of them. Despite high reviews of Naomi, I also consider that a weak work. So the ultra bottom-bottom line? Look elsewhere for good Clegg writing.