THE PUNISHMENT by Doris Shannon


Email this review


Sometimes distasteful, more often funny (unintentionally)--a hectic mÉlange of just about every contemporary-gothic staple: telepathy, incest, hereditary blood-lust, Rosemary's Baby. . . plus a fogbound-island setting lifted from And Then There Were None. Handsome Jim Quiller has persuaded second wife Dorothy and her telepathic teenage daughter Tammy (near-catatonic since her father's unsolved murder five years ago) to take part in a Quiller family reunion at an old house on a deserted Maine island. But it's soon apparent, to Dorothy's distress, that Jim's family is not the Brady Bunch: there's his punkish, druggy son Philip; his dictatorial father Ray; his sexy sister Ruth (along with drug-addict hubby, infantile son, and randy daughter-in-law); plus his sister-in-law Nadine, who's the widow of brother Micah (a suicide) and the mother of dwarf Nigel, a writer who falls hard for luscious Tammy. Furthermore, the house itself comes with a horrific history: back around 1910, it was occupied by an incestuous family of crazed rapists and child-murderers who were exposed and slaughtered by the outraged mainlanders. . . although it's rumored that a baby of that sick-o family survived! Could the creepy Quillers be the next, vengeful installment of this demonic, centuries-old dynasty? It looks that way--especially when the elderly caretakers of the house are bludgeoned and burned (they're descendants of those vigilante mainlanders). And then the fog rolls in, the furnace goes off, a cat is mutilated (of course), Tammy takes wretched telepathic trips into assorted sick minds, and Dorothy notices that Jim (who's been spending mucho time in sister Ruth's bedroom) is changing. So it won't be long before Ray, Ruth, and Jim are gangraping Dorothy (who reacts by getting amnesia) and planning similar lewd fates for Nadine and Tammy, both of whom (like Tammy's murdered dad) are also descendants of those 1910 vigilantes. Luckily, however, dwarf Nigel (a good-guy despite his genes) turns out to be ""telekinetic,"" and he'll martyr himself for beloved Tammy by killing all the Quillers with a mind-powered landslide. . . while a Rosemary's Baby fadeout (Dorothy-is pregnant) promises lethal Quillers in the future. Obviously at sea outside her historical-romance niche, Shannon (Beyond the Shining Mountains) delivers this gnarled nonsense in shrill, leaden dialogue and prose that swings from routine-tacky to epically awful. Still, for undiscriminating fans of lurid horror-shows--a very busy, probably passable stew.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's