I picked this one up because it seemed Halloweeny, and because scootsa1000 has mentioned it a couple times, and I think I mostly liked the other Peter Straub book I read. I liked the atmosphere and the concept, but I’m not sure I liked the way the story was laid out.
Tim Underhill is a writer in New York City. His brother is a booger of a human who lives with his cowed wife and angsty teenage son. When the cowed wife kills herself and the angsty son disappears (suspected taken by the pedophile serial killer haunting a local park), Tim flies in to do some investigating.
The story jumps back and forth, Before and After. We see angsty teen Mark and his best friend Jimbo before Mark’s mother’s death. They skateboard, they hang out, they become obsessed with the creepy house across the alley. Then we see things from Tim’s point of view, trying to figure out what happened to Mark. I liked Mark, and I really liked his buddy Jimbo, and I liked the ghosty stuff. Straub is good at creating atmosphere, and you can feel the dread build throughout the book – ghosts, serial killers, Bad Things happening.
I had some problems with Tim’s chapters. Part of his story is told from his journal, and part is told just from regular third-person point of view, but it doesn’t seem like both are necessary. We know his thoughts and feelings anyway, so why the journal? It seemed a little stilted and unnecessary. And then when you find out what happened to Mark and how the story ends, it’s a bit of a record-scratch moment. Way too much of a tidy little bow.
So the build-up is nice, and the investigatey parts are nice, but the ending and some of the getting-there took me out of the story a bit. Would read more of him, though.