A Grand Guignol cat-and-mouse tale about a monstrous husband pursuing his fleeing wife.
Megan and Carter face a terrible problem: Their 6-year-old child, Caitlin, is dying of cancer and doesn’t have much time left. But Carter has a plan to use the black magic that he and a dimwitted dormitory buddy learned back in college in order to cast a spell on the sick little girl. Carter is sure that the ritual will save Caitlin’s life; never mind that the last time he dabbled in the dark arts, his classmate died, or that the grisly ritual requires Carter and Megan to sacrifice their future baby. The ensuing narrative confidently seesaws back and forth between the couple’s disintegrating relationship and Carter’s halcyon days studying a creepy tome called The Alchemy of the Will by a forgotten academic named Dr. Allen Fincher. Cooper, a horror aficionado and film-studies teacher, largely eschews the highly charged politics inherent in his self-described “nasty little story”—despite the obvious parallels to the debates regarding abortion, stem cell research and cloning—in favor of tracking Megan’s escalating anguish and Carter’s growing fiendishness: “Carter’s fingers passed before his eyes, showing him the bits of skin that clung to their sharp tips—remnants of the man’s face.” As readers will likely expect, Megan eventually screws up enough courage to hit the road, a curiously whiny Caitlin in tow. From there, however, the heretofore steady narrative becomes a thoroughly protracted affair in which the tension grows tedious, even as the body count soars. Ultimately, the most unsettling thing about the gory goings-on may be that they could serve as a tasty prologue to a more interesting tale—about a little lost girl who grows up with a bloodthirsty monster.
An undeniably horrific thriller.