Sunday, August 28, 2011

Someone in the House

Someone in the House, by Barbara Michaels

It was definitely better than The Other Side of the Dark (by the same author), but still... I always seem to find this kind of novel to be anticlimactic.  The building up of the creepy, mysterious atmosphere is great, but very rarely-- never?-- is it wrapped up in a truly satisfying way.  Maybe that's not even possible with this kind of story.  Certainly it's no easy task.

Observations and Reactions:
  • Maybe it was unavoidable in this particular novel (read it to find out why ;o)), but the frequent mention of characters' religious beliefs and political leanings was distracting.  Mention it in passing, ok.  Bring it up repeatedly and you make it more difficult for me to sympathize with some of those characters. 
  • This author uses the word "mendaciously" more than anyone else I've ever read.  Also, of the two gothic novels / thrillers of hers I've read so far, both bring up the subject of "Manichaeism".  ...Which strikes me as odd. 
  • The mention of Agatha Christie and "Literature with a capital 'L'"-- I can relate, but the (later) dig about how Anne had "been known, on occasion, to sink as low as Agatha Christie"... Hm.  I assume this was tongue-in-cheek, considering the type of books that "Barbara Michaels" (pen name) herself writes. 
  • Roger and Aunt Bea (yes, there's an Aunt Bea)-- Their relationship struck me as a bit too instantaneous to be realistic.  I was also going to write about my doubts of the ease of this romance between a Christian lady and a (mildly but perpetually cursing) atheist... but then I read further.  
  • What a coincidence that Roger just happens to  have weird photographic equipment (and friends with more to loan) and a knowledge of / interest in "psychic phenomenon".  This bunch in general seems to be very well educated in a variety of off-beat subjects. 
  • All the quoting!  Sheesh.  Yes, two of the main characters are English majors / teachers, but still. A bit heavy handed with the quotations.  
  • The reference to "M. R. James, who wrote some of the most gruesome ghost stories in the English language", has piqued my interest. 
  • It's hard to care about Anne's relationship with Joe, right from the beginning on through to the end.
  • The creepiest and best parts of the book come relatively early.  They would be Bea's and Anne's first experiences of the paranormal.  After that, there were occasional "moments", but nothing nearly that eerie, in my opinion. 
  • The ending felt a bit rushed and (as I said before) unsatisfying.  It was better than the almost laughable ending of The Dark on the Other Side, but could've been better.
Before I read another Barbara Michaels, I think I'll consult some online reviews and find one of her most popular.   So far, my method of choice has led me to two of her weaker novels.