ScareStreet.com, 2016, 170 pages
Shane Ryan returns to Nashua and the childhood memories that drove him to join the Marines. After a prolonged legal battle with his aunt and uncle, Shane has possession of the family home where his parents disappeared over 20 years ago. The house, a monstrous castle filled with ghosts and secrets, is more alive than its inhabitants.
When his aunt and uncle come to town, then vanish, Shane's life takes a turn for the worse. Detective Marie Lafontaine immediately labels Shane as the prime suspect. And in a race against time, Shane desperately searches for clues about his parents.
But there's something lurking beyond the walls and beneath the surface. Something sinister that has haunted him ever since he saw its face in the pond behind the house. And it isn't happy that Shane is back.
It isn't happy at all.
This haunted house story is more slasher flick than suspense — the ghosts that haunt Berkley Street are physical and violent, capable of killing anyone who trespasses on the house grounds.
The story requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, not so much about murderous ghosts, but about the way people living in a house that regularly kills people behave. Maybe it's just me, but after the second or third time ghosts in my house killed a visitor, a handyman, or just some random trespasser, while telling me I'm next, I think I'd move.
However, the ghosts take a liking to Shane Ryan, whose parents move in when he's just seven. Not that this stops them from scaring the shit out of him, and not all the ghosts like him — in particular, the evil little girl in the pond out back, who seems to hold the other ghosts under a reign of terror. But even after Shane's parents become convinced that he's not seeing things and there really are ghosts, they don't move out. They are even willing to leave him alone in the house. Even after more than one person has died there.
This part is a little harder to swallow than ghosts.
Berkley Street jumps back and forth between Shaney's childhood and his adulthood, when he comes back to the house after spending twenty years in the Marines to find out what happened to his parents. (After he leaves home, his parents stay in the freaky murderous haunted house, and surprise, surprise, eventually it gets them.) There are also flashbacks to earlier scenes, to show us how some of the house's residents became ghosts.
As a horror novel, this was a decent one, involving a protagonist who has to come back to the source of his childhood trauma to confront the Big Bad. I was just a bit nonplussed at how quickly everyone is like, "Oh yeah, that house is haunted and the ghosts can literally kill you, so stay away from there, except for when you have to go inside for some reason."
Ron Ripley is no Stephen King, but he keeps the story going, usually by killing someone whenever things start to drag. This is the first in a series, and I guess I might read more when I'm in the mood.
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