SECOND CHILD by John Saul

SECOND CHILD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dull, almost YA horror novel set on the Maine coast and clanking with stereotypes, by the author of Creature (1989) and the paperback Hellfire. Aside from a swell housefire in the first chapter, little happens that's not foreseeable and doesn't arrive mechanically as expected. This time out, Saul mixes the story of the bad seed with that of the dual personality. At 15, Teri MacIver sets fire to the family house in California, burning up her mother and stepfather. Now, as she foresaw, she must be sent to live with her wealthy and remarried real father, Charles Holloway, and half-sister Melissa in secluded Secret Cove, Maine. Bored with wealth, Teri's mother Polly had divorced Charles, then given away all her vast alimony to the poor and made ends meet on a college teacher's salary. California gift Teri wanted more. Now living with the Holloways, she finds that her half-sister (still Charles' favorite) is a dumpy 13-year-old rejected by her peers as a wimp. What's more, Melissa has an alter ego, D'Arcy, a girl who a century earlier had cut off her own hand and thrown it at her fiancÉ at the August Moon Ball. Will this scene be reenacted at novel's end? Well, a variation. Meanwhile, Melissa's vile stepmother Phyllis, who as a nanny stole Charles from Teri's mother, treats Melissa's so-called sleepwalking (when D'Arcy has taken over Melissa) by strapping her to her bed each night. Teri sees the way to steal Charles' love from Melissa by killing the family Labrador retriever and a houseboy, then having the blame fall on D'Arcy/Melissa. The required murders happen, and all follows Teri's script--until D'Arcy herself returns for revenge on the night of the August Moon Ball. Walking through the plot like robots, the humorless, straitjacketed characters never have a chance to go against type. No match for John Farris' Fiends (p. 361), whose teen-age sisters dance off the page with vitality while still carrying out a horror-novel plot.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Publisher: Bantam