Monday, December 12, 2016
This House is Empty Now by Joseph Iorillo
Seeing how much I enjoyed The Legend of Darklore Manor anthology book, I jumped at the chance to read this other work by one of the authors that worked on it. Joseph Iorillo's short stories that I've looked at before are usually the more realistic with the supernatural twist coming near the end of it. This book is a good reflection of his personal style coming to life, a subtle look into the life of a haunted man and just whoever, or whatever, his haunting him.
Ray Strickland is having a rough go. His mother has died, his girlfriend left him, he has to deal with people he hates at work, and now he seems to be haunted by his dead mother's ghost. The haunting starts off small, things moving around and strange noises at night and that kind of thing. But it soon becomes aggressive and very intrusive into Ray's personal affairs. He tries everything from having a priest bless his house to joining a paranormal support group, but it seems his mother's ghost is determined to stay in control of Ray's life, dead or not.
The first thing you've got to realize when reading this book is that it is definitely more of a character story that it is a horror story. While the things that happen in the book are threatening and people do get hurt or worse, it's more the course of nature than it is a bloodbath. The cause of the strange occurrences in the house are mysterious but our main character is rational enough that he does think of possible solutions without just jumping to supernatural conclusions. Could it be in his head? But there's physical evidence to prove it isn't. Is someone tricking him? But everyone has an alibi. It's all handled very smartly and I admire that about this book.
The characters in this book are wonderfully colorful. There's a foul-mouthed priest, a TV psychic who wears a cape, and even Ray's best friend Dante have a lot of personality and flare and they're all a ton of fun to read about. The people you're meant to like, you automatically like. The people you're meant to hate, you despise. Yet everyone has layers to their personalities that nobody comes off as one-dimensional. Everyone does things for a reason. The paranormal support group is also an interesting batch of characters as you wonder what kind of people would show up to such an event. Most of all, Ray stands out as the main character. His struggles and feelings are all on the line for us to see. A normal guy with real-world problems dealing with forces beyond his control, yet he never seems to break character. Always level-headed, always nice, even as he deals with the crazy characters and the horrible people he deals with on a daily basis. You really feel for the guy and you want him to be happy and to pull through the experience. It's all really well done.
That being said, it is a slow book. While most scary stories like to end with an impressive shock-scare at the end of each chapter, this one goes at a slower pace. There are whole stretches of time where it's just Ray living his life to where you almost forget about the paranormal stuff. When the paranormal stuff does happen, however, it jumps out at you just when you let your guard down. Sometimes that's a good thing, other times it kinda feels like it came out of nowhere. It never goes too far, but it does mess with the pacing just a bit. A minor flaw, but one there nevertheless.
If you're looking for a horror story that involves a lot of scantily clad teenagers getting slaughtered, this isn't it. A slow, careful, intricately constructed story that's smarter than your average ghost story and definitely worth your money at your local bookstore!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: A long time ago, in a galaxy that Disney no longer considers canon....