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Story Time Lisa Mannetti Review by
Lisa Mannetti
The Shore
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THE SHORE
by Robert Dunbar
Delirium Books


There's almost nothing more satisfying to an avid reader of horror fiction—and, indeed, of all literature—to open the first pages of a favorite writer’s latest book only to discover breathtaking eloquence. And a damn good story. Robert Dunbar’s second novel, THE SHORE, delivers on both counts and squarely places him in the company of some of the genre’s finest writers: Peter Straub, Graham Joyce, and Tom Piccirilli—to name but a few.

The setting is winter, off-season in contemporary Edgeharbor, a decaying New Jersey shore town. Shop windows are boarded up, the population is sparse at best; even the beach is eroding and nearly non-existent. Dunbar excels at creating unnerving, palpable atmosphere through landscape and imagery: frost bleeds into a bare hand on a boardwalk, the nearly vacant Edgeharbor Arms is steeped in dingy gloom and layers of gray, odiferous dust.

His protagonist, Kit (Katherine) Lonigan, is a red-headed policewoman of infinite charm and brio. She's feisty and very witty; at the same time she can summon compassion for (say) an elderly recluse who is wheelchair-bound. I don't want to say too much about character because, in part THE SHORE is a multi-layered mystery, but his ancillary characters—among them the patrons of a seedy bar, a strange boy hiding out and holding his teenaged sister captive, psychiatrists and psychiatric patients and a man hunting the feral-seeming boy are all well-drawn and contribute to the suspense and terror in the novel.

The heart of the book devolves on a series of horrible murders committed perhaps, by a monster—a behavioral phenotype with strange gifts and special abilities—whose genetic ancestors may have been the source of old frightening legends that originated around werewolves and the like in medieval Europe. The pacing is masterful, the story gripping and Dunbar never lets up on the fear factor. Although technically THE SHORE is the sequel to the highly-acclaimed THE PINES, it's very much a stand-alone book and, in my opinion, surpasses even the brilliance that shined through his first novel.

As an expert on the legends of New Jersey's Pine Barrens, a lecturer on the topic and American folklore at colleges, libraries and historical societies, a frequent guest on radio and television, and the author of numerous short stories, Dunbar is well-equipped to tell this riveting tale.

In a multi-layered book of this quality, there's almost an unspoken pact between the author and his audience. Dunbar keeps his end of the bargain from the first sentence to the last in terms of narrative, character, plot and stunning linguistics. In short, he's written a tour-de-force that can hold its own among the best work in the genre.

5 BookWyrms

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This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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