Pros: Fascinating; some interesting twists
Cons: Some details that confused me
Rating: 4 out of 5
Joe Hart’s Lineage tells the story of young Lance Metzger, whose father viciously abuses both him and his mother. Lance writes poetry to deal with the feelings he can’t let out, until his father finds his notebook and destroys it. When Lance and his mother get caught by his father when trying to escape him, his mother disappears. Anthony Metzger, the father, tells Lance that she ran away. But Lance isn’t stupid; he knows it means she’s dead.
Lance grows up to be a famous author, but he and his girlfriend are on the outs, and Lance is being hit with a particularly bad case of writer’s block while he’s on deadline. He comes across a real estate listing that looks precisely like a house that he wants his characters to live in. In a fit of frustration, he goes and buys the mansion. He slowly gets involved in local small-town life. John is the caretaker for the building and the land it sits on. Lance meets Mary, a strong and lovely young woman, and he tries to get closer to her while simultaneously protecting her from the strange things happening in his house–things that could get very deadly very fast.
As long as Lance is in his new home, he has absolutely no trouble writing. He’s no longer writing the book he’s late on, but something entirely new. Anytime he leaves the house for a time his inspiration falters and he needs to return to keep writing. Luckily it doesn’t take him long to realize something is wrong with the house, or I would have had to deem him TSTL (too stupid to live). There are plenty of little (and big) surprises in here, some of which are genuinely interesting and push the pacing along well. This isn’t just the old trope, ‘writer moves to middle of nowhere and goes insane’–although that is part of it. It has some nice variations on the theme. I also love the fact that he isn’t the only character who’s smart enough to believe that something very wrong is happening. Smart characters who actually behave intelligently are such a joy. This segues nicely into pointing out that the characters are pretty interesting. There’s depth and surprise and fun to them. Just the fact that Lance’s potential girlfriend doesn’t think he’s a maniac is refreshing.
I did find a couple of places confusing in terms of what actually happened versus what was some sort of vision. When one old friend visits Lance, our writer finds him standing in the nearby lake, entranced, with most of his face looking as though it’s been torn apart. Yet when the guy gets pulled to safety and comes to himself, no one ever says whether his face is still all messed up. At least it mentions him talking which implies that he’s no longer missing a tongue, but I feel like that was an important enough detail that it deserved an explicit answer.
Apropos of… well, something: Why do people ‘on a mission’ always cut off the guy who starts to say that he has more to tell them before they go careening into trouble? Especially in potentially deadly circumstances?
Hart delivers a dark cache of secrets, murders, blood, ghosts, and all sorts of mayhem.