A restrained outing for Herbert (Sepulchre, Moon, etc.), as he leaves behind the ravenous rats and fungoid fogs that...

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A restrained outing for Herbert (Sepulchre, Moon, etc.), as he leaves behind the ravenous rats and fungoid fogs that cemented his pulp reputation to create a more traditional (and not very scary) horror tale reminiscent in some ways of his 1986 triumph, The Magic Cottage. Herbert has concocted an intriguing hero this time in David Ash, a world-weary, alcoholic psychic investigator who is hell-bent on debunking any and all reports of medium-ship, ghosts, and other eerie doings. Ash is invited to lug his spook-busting equipment down to the crumbling mansion of Edbrook, where the peculiar Mariell family--two weird brothers, one sexy sister, one mysterious Nanny, and a slavering hound--hold court. The Mariells, it seems, live in a haunted house. Soon after his arrival, Ash is treated to a phantom fire, a near-drowning in a scummy pool (complete with resident ghost), and other similar events. Meanwhile, back at the Psychical Research Institute, another investigator--who happens to be a genuine clairvoyant--named Edith Phipps picks up psychic distress signals from David's direction. As Edith goes to the rescue, things decay (in every sense) at Edbrook, and David is forced to reexamine his ideas about reality. Is it possible his fanatical debunking is a screen to hide his own psychic abilities? And just who are the Mariells, and why is there so much action at the mausoleum on their property? Herbert resolves these questions with a steady, quiet, but unimaginative hand; the occasional gore is restricted to rotting flesh and other genre staples, and the only real death occurs offstage. Herbert's most mainstream performance--also one of his least frightening. But ghost stories can satisfy in other ways--by building up an eerie, suffocating atmosphere of decay and death--and this Herbert does, with a modicum of style.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1989