Author Saul rewrites Psycho in his own image.
Saul (The Right Hand of Evil, 1999) issues his 19th suspenser, one of his better: Not wonderful, just more carefully styled than usual. We can’t spell out the Psycho tie without giving away the heart of the story, so we must fall into the Vague Hints Department. Let’s start with the Hapgood house, which has been in New Hampshire’s Hapgood family for four generations and is very large and rambling with an iron gate at the drive and a root cellar just dandy for storing . . . stuff. Living in this big rambler are Bill Hapgood, stepfather to Matt Moore (and he has another tie as well), and Bill’s wife Joan, who has a dead older sister, the ravishing Cynthia, and a vastly demented mother, Emily. Mother has Alzheimer’s, has forgetfully started a fire in her own kitchen, and has now been moved by Joan to the Hapgood house. Emily fears being shipped off to a home, but even more she detests Joan, Matt, and Bill. Why? Well, the disease makes her no longer herself. On the other hand, years ago she enjoyed stuffing a child into a cedar chest and going off to do other things. Now, that can grow terrible warts on your adult personality. And then poor mid-teen Matt has horrible erotic dreams, with his dead aunt Cynthia crawling into his bed and satisfying herself on him. Or are these dreams? They’re so real! Hmm. Then Bill can’t stand to live with Emily, moves out—and is killed while deer hunting with Matt. Did Matt shoot his father? Even Matt doesn’t know. But when Matt’s young girlfriends start to vanish, as does wild and weird old Emily, the suspense rises, attention turning to dead sister Cynthia.
The stronger themes here can’t even be hinted at. But the story grips for a solid three- or four-hour read, which makes it a success.