POSSESSION by Peter James


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A solidly entertaining if very traditional ghost story from a British novelist new to US publication. No gore, no sex--and scarcely a jot of originality--intrude upon James' effective repolishing of several dusty horror saws: the mysteriously moving trunk; cold spots; psychic readings; sÉances; exorcism, etc. The premise for all this otherworldly oddness? The car-crash death of Fabian, beloved son of ace London literary agent Alex and her estranged husband David Hightower. Fabian, it seems, simply refuses to cross over to the other side, preferring instead to drag that trunk around, exude foul smells, pop up in faces that Alex is about to kiss, and even leave messages on her computer screen (HELLO, MOTHER). Or is someone--something--else causing all the fuss? The natty medium whom Alex consults thinks that an evil spirit mimicking Fabian might be at work, and Fabian's old college chum--well, he just smirks deep secrets when Alex pays him a visit. And why does the terrified voice of Alex's old girlfriend come down the celestial pipeline during a sÉance when she's supposedly on vacation in Boston? Bit by bit, an ever more frazzled Alex puts the clues together, only to wind up deadcenter in a gothic occult web strung with madness, a restless demon, Fabian's real dad, a ballroom under a lake, and--sad to say--a confused resolution spoiled further by a cheap, jack-in-the-box ending. By grounding his fast-paced tale in a most sympathetic and believable heroine, and in a realism built of the mundane details of London life, James revitalizes his tired elements and cloaks them in a creepy--rarely chilling--claustrophobia that should please a good many readers while offending none. More discerning or adventurous horror fans, however, will be far better served by the dazzling inventions of Clive Barker's Cabal, reviewed above.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1988
Publisher: Doubleday