Hallows Eve - Al Sarrantoni

(No Series)

After twelve years, Corrie Phaeder is returning home to Orangefield-the last place in the world he wants to be. Orangefield is a town of nightmares, a town where the impossible and the horrific happen all too often, where ghosts rise screaming from their graves, and where trick-or-treating goblins have no need for scary costumes.

Something is waiting patiently for Corrie’s homecoming. This Halloween, a messenger from a realm of shadows, with the body of a scarecrow and the head of a pumpkin, will usher Corrie into what might prove to be his last nightmare, a battle to the death with the ultimate darkness.

The plot, while intriguing from first glance, instead ended up being scattered and confusing. When Corrie first came home, there was promise, but after that, with the introduction of creepy pumpkin head scarecrows, talks of the ever famous "Samhain", and other small townfolk tossed in the middle, it just didn't pan out with all the potential the back of the novel promised. There was some splattering of recognizable plots, and other things definitely out there and 'different.' As the book carried on, it was hard to follow the pattern and know how to feel. Sometimes I was interested and captured, but at other times I lost my way and didn't care as much as I should have.

The atmosphere was basically convincing; there were some creepy scenarios, some decent suspense build-ups, and the whole town seemed truly alive with the season of Halloween and all it stood for. The reliability of using the name "Samhain" and creatures created from Halloween symbols helped thicken the novel with genuine horror effects.

It was hard for me to latch on to Corrie. His mind was all over the place and although he came across as a "nice" guy, there just wasn't much there to hold on to. His character was around a lot but for the plot only, not for warming up to - his character could have used further tweaking.

Reggie, the little hyperactive girl who loves running her sentences together, seemed developed and realistic, although she wasn't used for much, more like an after effect. Corrie felt a lot for her real fast, which isn't entirely unlikely, but their 'bonding' wasn't shown in that much detail and, like Corrie, she seemed just there for plot fodder.

The written person that stands out the most is the detective Grant. Not only did he come off more realistic than the others, but he was also interesting. His mannerisms, the things he stood for, all spoke true and I enjoyed reading through his dilemmas. Alone, he couldn't bring the novel up to a five star rating, but he did help from keeping it lower.

Unfortunately the novel faltered in its pacing; it started right in the middle of things (which is good usually) but didn't take the time to flesh out properly. Things bumped along, not speeded, hitting many road blocks during the way. The wheels of this novel simply turned away from the barricade into a different direction, finding another way out, although not necessarily the most logical one.

By the end of the book, things went from faster to slower to faster again, running out of gas before crossing the finish line.

Sarrantoni's style is overall good; the man has obvious talent, but much of it is lost here without proper direction.

All Hallow's Eve isn't anything new -- it's a twist on an old theme, concentrating too much on the practices of Halloween (which has been beaten to death already), while showing all it's cards up front. The villains are introduced way too fast, there's not enough mystery remaining, the characters aren't really latched on to, and the ending wasn't anything overly powerful. Still, All Hallow's Eve isn't too bad...it kept me reading, and that's saying something. If a novel is genuinely bad, I usually won't finish it. I finished this one, because it DID have some saving grace. One being the well written detective, another being morbid curiosity for the show down (although my expectations weren't that high), and another being that while the plot was disorganized and jumbled, it wasn't exactly dull.

In short, I wouldn't spend much time - or money - on Hallow's Eve, but if you're in the mood for a somewhat different take on the old Halloween stories, give this one a gander - it may be up your alley.