Author: Jonathan Janz
Title: The Siren And The Spectre
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]
Note: in the publisher site, the title is “The Siren And The Specter.”
Synopsis: When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But Alexander House is different. Built in the 1700s by a land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by the shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well, for 22 years ago, he turned away from the woman he loved, and in sorrow she took her life. Now David suspects she’s followed him to Alexander House.
Review: for an author, especially for a horror author, sooner or later comes a time to create a novel that tackles one of the most practiced topics of this particular field of narrative: the haunted house. It’s a risky business, especially if such author adds to the plate other well-frequented issues like the American folklore and the figure of skeptic main character.
On the pro side, readers are ready and willing to have another story to read in the same old setting, with the memories of previous tales helpful to establish the suspension of disbelief that is the trademark of a successful novel. The cons are about the giants who already took this path. Confronting with the works of Shirley Jackson or Richard Matheson is no easy task. I’m happy to tell you that Jonathan Janz is able to spin a great story, ready to stand proud even in the shadows of such great predecessors.
As usual, the start of the narration is a bit slow, with all the pieces and the main characters that fill their places and set the stage for the disturbing developments that will follow. David Caine, the main character is well rounded and utterly credible in his efforts to stay sane and focused, even when confronted with the darkest part of his past. With him, you will find an excellent cast of believable characters and, of course, one of the most diabolic mansions ever described in a novel.
When this book reaches its full speed, it becomes one Hell of a rollercoaster. I will not spoiler the plot, but I can tell you that you will get more of what you will on your deck. Nobody is safe, and nothing is sacred in this book, the presence of Evil strong in every shadow of this corner of Virginia. The resolution of the main character will be forged in the hardest way, pushing his limits to the max and over. The pace of the plot is fast but not to the point of becoming muddy, you will be able to follow the events until the end.
Not everything is perfect, I have to say. For some of the minor characters, it will be useful to add some space, a bit more of development and/or some scene to bring them closer to the reader. One of the significant action-oriented scenes is a bit cranky, and it kills some tension in a pivotal moment. These are minimum flaws, perhaps due to cuts in the editing phase. Anyway, this novel is well worth reading, you will not be disappointed.
Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.