Pros: Decent sense of atmosphere; interesting characters
Cons: Far too many characters; ambling pace and lack of focus
Rating: 2 out of 5
It’s been a long time since I indulged in a moody, atmospheric horror novel, so I was very much looking forward to reading Douglas Clegg’s The Abandoned when I checked it out at the library. Unfortunately, while I did enjoy it, it left me a bit ambivalent.
Harrow is an old, run-down house with an evil reputation. A new caretaker has come to stay there, and people in the nearby town are having strange dreams—until finally, one day, those dreams boil over into reality and the town really goes to Hell.
Normally I have more to say about the premise than that, but honestly I couldn’t summon an extra sentence, and that’s part of the problem with this book. It takes a two-sentence premise and doesn’t add much onto that. It rambles and meanders back and forth in time, making it difficult to follow what’s happened when or to whom. The particularly large cast of characters adds to the confusion, and often when the book finally picks up a character’s trail again I’ve forgotten who on earth that person is and what they’ve done so far—never mind actually developing empathy for him or her.
The author takes a well-worn horror novel trope—the semi-sentient house—and adds a few trappings, stringing them together in fairly meaningless gory scenes. I know wonderful things have been said about this author and his books, but I just couldn’t really get into The Abandoned; only toward the end did it seem to develop something resembling a plot, and even that petered out rather than climaxing. While there are horror novels that can ride solely on the strength of atmosphere, the atmosphere in this book was good but not that good; it felt more like a mechanical catalogue of atrocities than an actual stirring of anything resembling horror, fear, or even revulsion.
A few things do keep this book from being a waste of time; there are several interesting characters and something like a plot does develop toward the end of the book. However, I don’t expect to pick up any other books in the series.
Standard warnings: This book is for adults only (sex, violence, blood, gore, etc.).