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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Haunted by Bentley Little

The Perry family have decided that their neighborhood has been getting just a bit too rough with the skater kids and the bullying of the youngest their son James. So they start to look around and find a beautiful older house in a quiet neighborhood for a good deal. You know if the house is too cheap that normally means something bad. But I digress.

Instead of a bad roof or a furnace that needs replacing what the Perry family get is a haunting of sorts. See it isn’t just one ghost but a whole bunch of them as their new home is the center of an evil that has plagued that part of Arizona for as long as people have lived there. What starts off as some creepy stuff escalates with the teenage daughter, Megan, being spied on and having awful text messages on her phone. It also effects the mom and dad, Claire and Julian, in a more adult way. The spirits that haunt the house keep upping their game until the family flees, but that doesn’t stop things. By then the evil has already gotten it’s claws into them. What happens? I’m going to recommend reading the book to find out.

True story. I picked this book up while on vacation solely based on the blurb from Stephen King on the cover. Sure I know that many times those things are done as favors to publishers and editors, but I figured “I’m at the beach… might as well give it a shot.” Off in the cart it went with my Diet Cheerwine (a true delicacy of the south). Now I didn’t get to start the book while on vacation but when I got home I got right to it.

The story is solid and paced well. The setting of the house and the characters of the Perry family are established quickly allowing Little to start making us squirm. There is a genuine sense of dread as he shows early on that whatever is in the house is going to mess with folks. From the adults who get a heightened sex drive and their inhibitions lowered making for some awkward and honestly creepy moments to the kids who are tortured in different ways. This is especially so in how he describes how the young teen daughter Megan is terrorized. From text messages from an unseen voyeur telling her to take her pants off to seeing a sleeping friend practically molested at a sleepover while everyone else is asleep it isn’t afraid to “go there”.

Just to be clear I never felt that Little crosses the line of good taste, though the more sensitive reader might want to skip this one. Instead he goes just far enough to make it certain that the kids as well as their parents are in real danger. Of what? Sure they might be killed or worse. Even after we get the ending I felt like all involved are going to be traumatized for the rest of their lives. That adds some additional emotion weight to the story. I found myself caught up in the characters and the fates they were dealt.

If I had one criticism of The Haunted, it is the ending. We get such a fantastic build up only for the conclusion to feel rushed. Not only that but I hadn’t ever read a haunted house/ghost story with a plot quite like this one. But the ending is overly familiar and a bit of a letdown. But I’m not going to let the last thirty pages (really that is how quickly the story wraps up!) ruin the book for me. If you dig horror novels, I think that this book is for you.

Before this is wrapped up I wanted to mention that it was a pleasant surprise when doing research for this review that the author was also responsible for the short story that was adapted into my favorite Masters of Horror episode The Washingtonians. Though given the style of this book and how much it uses history to tell the story that completely fits. Between that and how much fun I had with The Haunted I’m going to have to track down more of his books.


Ó Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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