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by Dean Koontz
HarperCollins, June 2012
498 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007452985

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The Pendleton, built in the late 19th century on the summit of Shadow Hill, has been home to unfortunate families that have been destroyed over the years by madness, kidnappings and murder. Now it's a three-storey luxury apartment building, with a pool and a gym in the basement and 24/7 security. It's home to such characters as the elderly Cupp sisters, famous for their cake business, songwriter Ywyla Trahern and her young son, an ex-marine, a scientist, a senator, a killer for hire, a mother and her autistic daughter, Iris. Life's been eventful for all of them but when strange shadows are seen flitting through rooms, mutated creatures cross corridors to just vanish into walls and the dead roam the lobby and corridors, confused and out of time, it's just the start of a thirty-eight year cycle that will transport the house into a desolate, desperate place in which every resident will have to fight to survive.

One stormy night, the building's intricate murals, marble flooring and polished wainscoting are replaced by faded yellow paint, peeling wallpaper and mould. The city outside vanishes to be replaced by a strange landscape of long grass in an unending meadow with winged creatures flying against a dark sky. Outside there are terrifying monsters of indeterminate species looking for a way in, inside there are inhuman things that can transform people into weapons. The residents of The Pendleton are being picked off one by one, separated, transformed and killed. But it's not just them running out of time and options, because this place is controlled by a single entity and the horrors in the house pale in significance to the horror of the truth.

The idea is an old one, nor is the execution exactly new or original. The narrative is classic Koontz, although the plot is too often slowed by unnecessarily detailed back-stories and overly complex exposition. As a horror story, it's disappointing. There's the promise of something spine-tingling, something sickening and horrible, but the book never delivers. Descriptions of creatures read like bad special effects in low budget movies, with strange voices coming out of the walls and pulsing blue lights on television screens but none of these things are frightening.

The characters are likeable and despicable in turn. It's easy to root for the good guys and wish bad things to happen to the bad guys, but the promises of horror that the villain makes in each short monologue never come to fruition and begin to feel like idle threats. In the end the climax feels both predictable and rushed after ploughing through a book that feels around a hundred pages too long. Although dedicated Dean Koontz fans may not mind too much, those looking for original horror won't find it here.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in South West England. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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