Pyper’s portrait of twins—one good and one evil—isn’t a new literary concept, but his version is memorable and, perhaps, nightmare-inducing.
Danny Orchard and his sister, Ashleigh, were stillborn, but a medical team revived them. The only children of a Detroit automobile executive and his homemaker wife, Danny turned out to be a socially inhibited and shy kid, while Ashleigh evolved into hell on wheels. Literally. Unpredictably cruel and incapable of kindness, she viciously torments everyone from the family dog to her many male admirers. Then, on her 16th birthday, Ashleigh and three of her friends bicycle into downtown Detroit, and she ends up dying in an old abandoned house that was set on fire. When Danny rushes to the scene and tries to save her, he also dies but only for a few minutes, and then he’s brought back to life. He remembers the afterlife as reliving the happiest day of his life and writes a book about it, which ends up being a best-seller. With his parents gone, Danny lives off the profits from the book and speaking gigs until, one day, he meets Willa, a widow with a son named Eddie. Soon he and Willa fall in love, but even in death, Ashleigh is vengeful, and soon she’s making life unbearable for them, leading Danny to a desperate solution that might backfire. Pyper, a Canadian writer, has a knack for imbuing the ordinary with palpable and frighteningly plausible horror. He also displays his writing chops by creating wholly likable characters such as Danny and Eddie while simultaneously engineering the irredeemable Ashleigh, whose soul remains as black as the bottom of a well. Pyper’s pacing, as well as the novel’s length, is perfect, and his evocative description of Detroit, a city desolate in its decline, comes off as both sad and poetic at the same time.
A treat for fans of intelligent treatments of the supernatural and rock-solid writing.