A late-night visitor disturbs the peace in this spine-chilling novella from horror writer Chizmar (The Long Way Home, 2018, etc.).
Sarah Tucker is cooking breakfast for her husband, Kenny, when she receives a text from her next-door neighbor Angie Urban: Someone rang the Urbans’ doorbell repeatedly at 3:30 a.m., but by the time Angie’s husband, Frank, dragged himself out of bed and down the stairs, their stoop was deserted. The Tuckers’ bell has been inoperative for months, but Sarah remembers hearing their Corgi bark, so she pulls up the footage captured by their security camera. To her astonishment, she sees a half-dressed young woman with a manacle on one wrist stumble onto their porch, stab frantically at their broken buzzer, and then hurry back into the night. The Tuckers call the police, who publicize the video in hopes of identifying the woman and begin searching for suspects among the quiet Pennsylvania suburb’s residents. As secrets come out, paranoia sets in, prompting Sarah and Kenny to question how well they know their neighbors, their friends, and each other. Meanwhile, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Natalie, becomes convinced that somebody is following her. Chizmar delivers some genuinely creepy moments, cleverly capitalizing on readers’ domestic insecurities; the best frights are front-loaded, though, making the back half of the tale feel like a filibuster. The Tuckers and their relationship largely ring true, but the story’s secondary characters lack dimension.
Chizmar squanders a dynamite premise with an underdeveloped plot, unexplained red herrings, and a seemingly arbitrary conclusion.