SKULL SESSION by Daniel Hecht


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 An ambitious but torpidly paced pass at a creepy-house horror tale that tries to combine Stephen Kingish gore-on-the-floor gross-outs with Dean Koontzical monster mash. Paul Skoglund, a 38-year-old victim of Tourette's syndrome, can't keep a job, sit still, or stop from babbling inanities and profanities. Still, he's a nice guy who can play pop tunes on his saxophone, do menial repairs, and exhibit otherworldly bursts of energy while rescuing his thrill-seeking girlfriend, Lia, from calamities. The product of an almost absurdly dysfunctional New England family peppered with suicides, madness, and gothic secrets, Paul has an apparently mentally retarded son, Mark, from a previous marriage, and an ex-wife who'd like full custody of the boy. To the rescue comes Paul's kooky Aunt Vivien, who's willing to pay him lavishly to fix up the family's rotting, vandalized Westchester, New York, hunting lodge, where, we learn, at least one young punk has been ripped apart by an unseen beastie. Paul takes the job and begins to discover that a few of those dark family secrets concern him. Meanwhile, Detective Morgan Ford finds that some supposedly accidental deaths that produced mangled, mutilated corpses might not have been so accidental. Newcomer Hecht spins a sticky spider web of intricate metaphors that boil down to the fact that appearances are deceiving. Paul rapidly learns that Aunt Vivien is closer to him in more ways than he can imagine, and that his troubles with Tourette's, as well as his son's difficulties, are due to a genetic trigger that can transform him into a superhuman fighting machine that's of passionate interest to the CIA and other government types. It's a bit much to be going on under one sagging roof, and the gory Oedipal Ragnarok ending is more disturbing than satisfying. An earnestly wrought, meandering tale that, despite some gripping scenes and lots of facts about neurophysiology, adds up to less than the sum of its parts. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-87661-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


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