BORN BURNING by Thomas Sullivan

BORN BURNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Stylish horror novel about a boy, his disappearing family, and a supernatural family heirloom, by the author of The Phases of Harry Moon (1988). The Whitehall family chair, made of teakwood, was carved from a Chinese tree many thousands of years old, came into the Whitehall family in 1856, and has been handed down to the firstborn male each generation when the boy achieves his seventh year--although he does not take actual possession until he replaces his father. The Whitehall heirs, however, have a terrific way of disappearing, and now seven-year-old Joey Whitehall's father has drowned and Joey is in line for the chair. Joey has two problems: his cold-eyed Uncle Lucien, and the fact that whenever Joey sits in the chair he goes instantly berserk. And it may well be that Uncle Lucien murdered Joey's father and Joey's older stepbrother. Uncle Lucien moves in with the beautiful widow Whitehall, Carolyn, Joey's mother. Does her life hang on a strand of smoke? She lords it hard and heavy at the Whitehall Automobile Works, which she now runs. Then uncle seduces Carolyn on the breakfast table, tries to drown Joey in quicksand and fails, and discovers Joey's horrors about sitting in the Whitehall chair. For the chair now shows Joey how Lucien murdered his brother. . . While mother turns into a sexpot, trying to make Lucien her sexual slave, Lucien gives Joey double-edged presents that could do the boy in. However, as Lucien's attempts on his life grow more transparent to Joey, the boy's resistance builds--but something about the story, perhaps the haunted chair itself, fails to deliver the promised nervous discharge. Flows admirably before unraveling in the final pages.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1989
Publisher: Dutton