William Peter Blatty,
(Cemetery Dance, 2009)

William Peter Blaty, best known for his novel The Exorcist, has a short, punchy ghost story to share in Elsewhere.

The novel is largely set in a rambling old house that sits alone on an island in the Hudson River, a long stone's throw from Manhattan. Real-estate agent Joan Freeboard is brought in to help sell the house, which has been lingering on the market because of its haunted reputation. Freeboard, not one to admit defeat, arranges a weekend stay at the house with an author, a parapsychologist and a psychic, all with the intention of debunking its ghostly rep and making the sale.

Of course, it won't be that easy.

Elsewhere takes its sweet time getting to the meat of the story and, once there, is often more unsettling than downright scary. The reader follows the characters through a disorienting labyrinth of odd impressions and occasional frights, but only once did the book really bang down the door with actual terror.

The book is, in many ways, more an exploration of the concepts of death and afterlife than it is a true haunting. The conclusion may leave readers more satisfied than scared, and no one will see the big twist coming -- but the unexpected revelation isn't as original as one might hope, so it's a bit of a letdown.

Still, Elsewhere -- based on a short story included in Al Sarrantonio's 999: New Stories of Horror & Suspense in 1999 -- succeeds on the basis of atmosphere alone. At only 220 pages, it's certainly worth the time to read.

book review by
Tom Knapp

16 October 2010

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