Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson

(pb; 2006)

From the back cover:

"When Rudd, a troubled teenager, embarks on a school project, he runs across a series of articles from the 1902 New York Times chronicling a vicious murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young. Delving deeply into the Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice used in the murders, Rudd, along with his newly discovered half-brother, Lael, becomes swept up in the psychological and atavistic effects of this violent, antique ritual.

"As the past and the present become an increasingly tangled knot, Rudd is found at the scene of a multiple murder at a remote campsite with minor injuries and few memories. Lyndi, the daughter of the victims, tries to help Rudd recover his memory and, together, they find a strength unique to survivors of terrible tragedies. But Rudd, desperate to protect Lyndi and unable to let the past be still, tries to manipulate their Mormon wedding ceremony to trick the priests (and God) by giving himself and Lyndi new secret names—names that match the killer and the victim in the one hundred-year-old murder. The nightmare has just begun."

Open is a slow-build, mostly well-edited psychological horror novel that is more suggestive than gory, steeped in Mormon history -- a history that most Mormons would deny or uncomfortably skim over. But not Rudd, whose dark investigations take a more modern, obsessive turn.

I write "mostly well-edited" because Open builds too slowly: some scenes could have been edited out, without creating a plot-hiccup in the largely predictable storyline, which dissolves into an overused haze of dream-twisty madness. The fact that Open is predictable is not a criticism -- Evenson is well aware of its predictability -- but the journey, for the most part, is interesting in its creeping-in, ritual-born insanity.

This is an overall-solid read from an author of talent and mainstream-ish leanings. If you like Dean Koontz or Stephen King's early writing style, you may like Evenson's Open as well.

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