BLACK HOUSE

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Black House
SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
BLACK HOUSE - 2001
USA Publication: Sept. 15, 2001
by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Random House
ISBN: 0-375-50439-7

I read THE TALISMAN back when it first came out, and Abebooks.com tells me that means 1984. Hmmmm. I don't remember 1984. Come to think of it I don't remember much of either year bordering it, either.

This reference to my 80's indulgences is only relevant because it tells you that there's no need to read or reread THE TALISMAN in order to enjoy BLACK HOUSE. Yes, it's touted as a sequel. Yes, Jack Sawyer returns as our hero and generally cool dude. But past that - nada. There’s nothing you have to know about the past to make this novel work.

BLACK HOUSE picks up twenty years after Jack left the Territories and his parallel universe traveling behind. The two decades faded his childhood memories and developed Jack into a successful and somewhat celebrated Los Angeles homicide detective. Then, while still young and quite a bit short of his career peak, Jack decides to turn in his badge and retire to the hamlet of Tamarack, Wisconsin.

It's easy to see why he chose Tamarack. For the most part it's a peaceful place. Kids can still trick-or-treat without parental escort and the neighbors talk to each other.

Up until now.

There’s someone new in town. Someone who kidnaps children, consumes choice portions, and dumps the remains. Wendell Green, reporter extraordinaire, recognizes commonalities between the current spate of murders and the hideous crimes of one Albert Fish - arguably America's most notorious serial killer - so he labels the new murderer The Fisherman.

As you can imagine, Tamarack is up in arms. The local police are in over their heads, so there's unwanted help from the state authorities. The beer-brewing, Harley-riding, literature debating "Thunder Five" motorcycle gang occasionally tosses in a bit of interference. The parents are getting downright snippy.

So, of course, it's up to Jack Sawyer, ace homicide detective, to set things right.

Taken at face value, this isn't much more than a murder thriller in the same vein as Straub's Blue Rose trilogy. But that's just face value. You can't take two masters like King and Straub and expect anything to be what you expect it to be. That's not what you pay $29.00 for, right? Besides, it wouldn't be billed as a sequel to THE TALISMAN if we were just gonna play cops and cannibals.

It's a given (therefore, I believe, not a spoiler) that the Territories still exist. And they have something to do with all this. King's DARK TOWER fans will find interesting and relevant information woven into the text of BLACK HOUSE as well. But neither of those "other" lands impact this story the same way they do in previous works. At times it's almost as if their threads were woven in more as distractions than anything else. Change a few names, shift a few places, and this could have been the same novel without a single bit of back history. Maybe I should blame King and Straub's need to revisit old ground. Maybe I should blame marketing. Probably, since it didn't hurt the story, I won't blame anyone at all.

The plot is strong, the characters well developed, and the build-up adequate. I say adequate because both King and Straub have (long ago) taken to using twelve words where eight would do just fine. But I never found myself bored and at times I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, so there's no need for them to apologize. Not once when I was reading this did I go to sleep before 3 a.m.

A good going and well worth four BookWyrms.

BookWyrmBookWyrmBookWyrmBookWyrm

This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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