VOICES IN AN EMPTY ROOM by Francis King
Kirkus Star

VOICES IN AN EMPTY ROOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Three women seek contact with recently deceased loved ones--in this fairly stylish but belabored and predictable occult/psychology concoction. Sybil, a middle-aged spinster schoolmistress, believes that her late brother Hugo is speaking to her through her bursts of automatic writing; then a flashback fills in the events (largely unknown to Sybil) leading up to his apparent suicide--his intense experiments in ESP with two telepathic youngsters, his developing homosexual obsession with one of the boys, the revelation of the boys' ESP hoax, the encroaching pressures of sexual/professional scandal. Likewise, actress Lavinia Trent tries psychometry and a medium to reach her dead son Stephen--whose short, skewed life is then presented in flashback: illegitimate, half-Indian Stephen is raised mostly by Lavinia's childless sister; understandably, he's full of rage and ambivalence when busy actress Lavinia suddenly decides to become more of a doting mother; and his sado-masochistic compulsions escalate into suicide-games and eventual self-strangulation (with the scarf Lavinia gave him for his birthday). And the third ghost-seeker is Bridget, whose journalist-husband died in the Falklands war--and whose grief has been compounded by a nasty con-man who pretended to bring Bridget a message from her dying husband. In a final chapter, then, the three women come together to share their confused glimmers of communications from the beyond; because those communiquÉs include references to the secret kinkiness of Stephen, however, full exploration of the spirit-world data will never take place. Still, sure now that there's life-after-death, ""each will feel a sudden joy buffeting her. . . . There has been a cross-correspondence which, unlike all the other cross-correspondences, defies all rational explanations. Lavinia knows the nature of that cross-correspondence, even if she may never reveal it or even confirm the fact of its existence."" More like three short stories hitched together than a full-fledged novel: low-key English entertainment for the occult audience, but likely to disappoint those who savored the creepy mysteriousness of King's Act of Darkness (1983).

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown