The Reckoning - Sarah Pinborough

(No Series)

Set in present-day England, Pinborough's gripping tale of supernatural suspense focuses on four childhood friends, Gina, Rob, Jason and Carole-Anne, whose innocence vanished one tortuous summer after a series of bizarre and violent incidents at Syracousse, the beautiful estate house belonging to Gina's parents. Since the day Gina's mother murdered her father, Syracousse has stood empty. A quarter-century later, without warning, more strange violence afflicts the four. After Carole-Anne's mysterious suicide, Rob, Jason and Gina—reunited almost as strangers—link the recent tragedies to Syracousse, where they return for a gruesome finale.

They say parting is such sweet sorrow, but Sarah Pinborough makes saying goodbye easier by returning back with more so quickly. What’s rarer than rare? How about a female horror author that shovels out two good books in less than a year! I’ve always thought we needed more women writers on the dark side, their morbid nature is just as strong as mens. If you doubt this, try screwing one over. They don’t say Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned for nothing.

While the plots familiar ground for the reader, as it’s been done many times before in every form, it’s still fun to tread upon. Haunted houses, a protagonist with an undeniable urge to return home, a small child sucked into the evil, and the classic battle between good people and unseen dark forces that are never really explained. Yep, familiar alright, but done in a manner that works.

The beginning opens cleverly, hinting at intriguing flashbacks to come, while the middle delivers on this and more, not annoyingly dangling those meaty morsels out too long, yet still promising later discoveries to come. When it ends, it does so in a satisfying way, leaving me feeling like the story has been told on good terms, not being rushed just to make it over the finish line. Scenes are well written and planned, not weighed down by unneeded space anchors, propelling the story along further.

Characters are rich and fleshy, although I never became overly attached to any of them. The obligatory romance was a bit too sappy and cutish, the instant attraction and development taking me back to my Harlequin days. The child was adorable, of course, but perhaps a bit too adorable, as if the writer really wanted to hammer it into the readers minds that this kid is CUTE! At least here Pinborough delves into the darkside, offing the likable characters in sadistic enough ways that prove to be painful.

While not a bloody, violent affair, one death (or multiple death) scene in particular is strikingly bleak. This isn’t a book I’d describe as terrifying, but it does have it’s disturbing moments. Pinborough’s writing style is avid and determined, weaving words that match the tone ideally. Pace is strong but not rapid fast, a great speed limit that works well with the material.

It’s not unflawed and it’s not perfect, but it’s still a book that demands to be read. Since they keep getting published, it’s apparent that readers never tire of the evil house tale; here’s another one to haunt the shelves and please the spiritually inclined.