Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Charnel House by Graham Masterton

(pb; 1978)

From the back cover:

"When Seymour Willis told people his house was breathing, they thought he was crazy -- until they heard it for themselves. . . The sound was terrifying -- like a human heartbeat, pounding within the walls.

"Led by John Hyatt, San Francisco Sanitation Department Exterminator, the disbelievers investigated. Their only lead was an ancient Indian legend. Centuries ago a demon coyote had been banished from that very spot. Now the creature lived again -- and killed again -- grotesquely murdering one of the searchers.

"By then it was too late to stop the fiendish force from rejoining the land of the living -- wreaking vengeance on those who had denied his very existence."


Compact, fast-moving, suspenseful, deftly-characterized entry in the horror genre.

A couple of the scenes in Charnel House threatened to crash this reader's suspension of disbelief, but Masterton, aware of how the workings of ancient Indian magic must seem to a non-believer, isn't above cracking darkly-comical jokes, or explaining why characters do the things they do, and why certain scenes play out the way they do.

Solid, and chock full of cinematic money shots, this is a B-flick worthy novel that echoes an earlier novel of Masterton's, The Manitou.

Charnel House sufficiently differs from The Manitou, making Charnel House an original, interlinked work. (The Gitche Manitou, a heavily-mentioned element/character in the Manitou series, gets a mention in Charnel House.)

In some ways, because of its deeper characterizations, its colorful locale (San Francisco), and its fuller explanations of Indian magic, Charnel House is a superior, more fully realized work than The Manitou.

Both novels -- and the Manitou series -- are worth reading, but if you're looking for a fun, horrific afternoon read, check out Charnel House first, then start the Manitou series.

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