A SMALL DARK PLACE by Martin Schenk


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 Derivative, tightly told heartland horror tale that, in aspiring to be a Stephen King knock-off, brims with the master's strengths--and failings. Eight years after high-school jock Peter and cheerleader Sandra were everybody's favorite couple, they lose their house and farm to what appears to be too much bad luck. Lamenting that they are neither rich nor famous, the Wileys move themselves and their children (William, eight, and Andromeda, five) to a motel, where, as Peter fails to get what few jobs the economically depressed burg of Wishbone, Kansas, offers, Sandra, the Eve in this morality tale, gets an idea while watching an old movie on TV (that old devil box!): Why not drop one of the kids down a shaft, let the poor child become an overnight media sensation, and retire on the donations? Alas, the best-laid plans must go astray--the trap the parents lay for Will, who actually likes dark, smelly places, instead snares Andromeda, who can't stand them. Still, the plight of ``baby Andromeda'' galvanizes the town and the nation. As money, goods, and services enrich the Wileys, poor Andromeda discovers a nasty plant thing lurking in the shaft that seems to save her life just so that heroic Will can rescue the now lethally altered Andromeda. The story then zooms 15 years ahead. The town, reborn as a tourist mecca, wants to throw a parade for Andromeda, by now a creepy but beautiful vamp who intends to use the supernatural powers she gained while underground to destroy anyone (meaning just about everybody) who profited from her suffering. As suspenseful as King's best gross-outs, and as cynically dumbed-down as King's worst. Not quite Pet Sematary, but close enough to show that newcomer Schenk understands the rules of commercial horror fiction. Next time around, he should break some of them. (First printing of 100,000; film rights to New Line; Literary Guild selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-375-50074-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997