Friday, November 23, 2007


God, I so hate the book I have in the tape player right now: In the Dark of the Night by John Saul. Never in a million years would I ever be reading or listening to this stuff, unless assigned. Already there's been a disemboweled cat, and as I turned off the player last night, I could easily foresee the grisly death (probably by hacksaw) of a secondary character. A committee colleague nominated this, so I'm listening. Very large ick!

A Evanston, Illinois family is renting an old Victorian mansion up in the north woods of Wisconsin. The mansion was owned by a psychiatrist [I have blanked on his name] who specialized in serial killers and who mysteriously disappeared seven years ago. The family has a teenaged boy, Eric, who will now be able to spend the summer with his two best buds from home, whose families also rent houses in this resort community. Eric's mom has some kind of anxiety disorder that makes her fear pretty much everything (do I need to spell out the irony that she finally has something to be afraid of here?), and there's a cutesy younger sister who is now pretty broken up over the dead cat.

Eric and his friends have been exploring the mansion's carriage house, which seems to be the storage place for all the doctor's things. He appears to have been a buyer of things used by serial killers (Jack the Ripper's scalpels, Jeffrey Daumer's hacksaw). But when the boys enter the carriage house, something comes over them and they lose all track of time. And the night the cat died, each of them dreamed that they were Jack the Ripper, murdering a prostitute.

And then there's an old guy in a boat that has a cross standing in one end. He seems to be connected to the doctor in some way. (Cue the eerie music that begins and ends each side of the tape).

I'm so utterly freaked out by the story that it's hard to pay attention to the listener. He's providing plenty of atmosphere -- intoning "in the dark of the night" where appropriate. He's made the younger sister a little whiny, and the townie boys (who are tormenting the Evanston boys when they aren't inside the carriage house) are nasty in a cariactured kind of way. The adults all sound normal, but the boys seem a little gee-whiz to me. Several of my colleagues have complained about the voicing of the boys, but that doesn't bother me the way the bad writing does.

All I can say is thank god for young adult writers who know how young adults talk and act. John Saul just doesn't. For god sake, he had Eric pull a handkerchief out of his pocket -- what teenager carries a handkerchief? Every time the boys are in the carriage house, they marvel at how the time passes. Their conversations sound awkward and stilted.

I think the nominator of this book thinks it's important that we have a horror title to broaden or round out our list, but I think our list needs to be great audiobooks, period. And -- as I think I've said before -- a great audiobook can be a so-so book well read, but I am not finding this title to be an example of that.

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