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THE INFINITE - 2002
by Doug Clegg
ISBN 9 780843 949278
This is a haunted house tale.
The very best novelists, the few who truly master their craft, learn to "layer"
a book, allowing it to be enjoyed on any number of levels. Events and
characteristics are "mirrored" and "echoed," previous
incarnations of the controlling concept are slyly referenced, allowing
the work to have a depth and resonance unavailable to the neophyte. Calling
the ghastly property in question "Harrow" is just one example.
So right off, let me tell those unfamiliar with his work that Doug Clegg is a damned
That fact is both the blessing and the curse of reading his new hardback THE INFINITE. Cleggs prose style is often lyrical, yet linear, and at moments rococo both in practice and design. THE INFINITE is dark, emotionally touching, spooky as hell; it is also both an homage to, and a dignified retelling of, the classic myth of the haunted American
mansion. We know were in the hands of a true master when a character
is given directions to Harrow and told to look for streets named Matheson,
Jackson and Tryon. I felt like Clegg was giving me a sly wink and a nudge,
as if to say: This is fun, isnt it?
THE INFINITE is the conclusion of a trilogy. I confess to not having read the previous
installments Nightmare House and Mischief, but
I doubt that this fact impacted my enjoyment of the novel. Three flawed
but likeable psychics, improbably named Frost Crane, Chet Dillinger and
Cali Nytbird (ego, anger and love?) are located
and hired by the mysterious Ivy Martin and ghost hunter Jack Fleetwood
of the PSI Foundation. Their assignment is to spend a few weeks at Harrow,
a former boarding school with a history of sudden death, macabre happenings
and eerie coincidences. Their presence inevitably brings the sinister
house back to life.
The fact that we know roughly what were in for didnt bother me
a bit, for Clegg also knows the turf well. First he takes your hand and
offers you false comfort; then he manages to twist and turn just enough
to keep you authentically nervous; yet always stays roughly within the
accepted guidelines of his chosen genre. I cant say I was ever very
surprised, but I truly liked these folks and I was genuinely entertained
every step of the way. Clegg grabs Calis voice particularly well,
I found myself cheering her on.
I cant say much more about the plot line without the risk of ruining
your enjoyment. THE INFINITE is a rich and complex achievement and deserves to be read. I suspect it
will be enjoyed most by those who can fully appreciate the delicate high-wire
act involved in the construction. Nonetheless, the basic fan, although
he/she may miss most of the subtleties, is sure to love the satisfying
shocks and the wry, soft, seductive voice with which Clegg tells the tale.
I give THE INFINITE four bookwyrms.
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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