This time last year, I started reading spooky books. I honestly don’t remember reading anything scary before then. But within a span of a few months, I made plans to go to a book reading/signing with several authors—including Cherie Priest, whose book Maplecroft had just come out—and then found a horror omnibus for $3 that I couldn’t resist.
And so I became a horror reader.
I’m easily scared. I’m not sure why; maybe it’s my overactive writer’s imagination, maybe it’s growing up in the middle of a forest, maybe it’s my family’s tendency to be playfully superstitious. But for whatever reason, I’m now 27 and am scared of the dark and have nightmares after seeing trailers for horror films. So obviously, I have traditionally steered clear of scary books, not really eager to spend my nights lying in bed with no contacts or glasses on, wondering which of those shadows is my lamp and which—yikes—might not be.
Continuing with my No-SCWM Authors Challenge, I decided to turn to a book I bought awhile back that hadn’t yet escaped the TBR pile: Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements. Without further ado, my thoughts.
When A., a young European man, learns of the death of a wealthy relative in the US, he isn’t sure how to feel. He didn’t know he had a cousin in the US at all, but the respectable inheritance he’s collected seems at least worth a trip to the States. He and his friend Niamh travel to the northeastern US to see the mansion that now belongs to A.
Between the ghost that haunts the bathroom, the disappearance of the family butler, the strange guests who drop by, and the news of a mysterious society A.’s cousin was somehow involved in, A. and Niamh begin to suspect the is more to the cousin’s death—and to the house—than just a silly local ghost story.
How I found it: BYA03
Genre: Horror; Mystery; Gothic; Young Adult; bildungsroman
Does it pass the Bechdel test? Yes
Is it a standalone? Maybe?
So what worked? The book really reminded me of a less-challenging House of Leaves, with its “found-footage” organization, but that’s certainly not to say it isn’t a challenging read (I’m looking at you, sections on ciphers). It has the feeling of reading a film script complete with storyboard and set direction, and despite the unconventional structure, it manages to flow very well. It’s the first book I can remember reading with this type of setup, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I think the book’s content was very well suited to this particular presentation.
I love that the book begins so abruptly, just expecting the reader to catch up, and never quite giving us a break even up to the end. The pacing had me tearing through the novel, unable or perhaps just entirely unwilling to find a suitable stopping point for silly things like eating or sleeping.
The mystery facet was yet another challenge; I wanted to figure out what was going on so badly, yet it never felt like the author was trying to trick the audience or prove he was smarter than the reader. I think, actually, that the mystery would be quite solvable if only the reader knew which clues to look out for and which to ignore. Ultimately, I didn’t solve the mystery on my own, and the ending left me pleasantly surprised, satisfied, and yet eager to read more.
What didn’t work? It’s hard to say exactly without getting into spoiler territory, and I really don’t enjoy doing that. However, there is one scene in particular, near the very end, that was not only unnecessary but felt entirely out of place with the tone of the rest of the novel. It seemed too contrived and contributed nothing to the suspense and terror of that particular section.
Overall: Honestly, despite the one unwarranted scene I mentioned, the novel was a satisfying read, especially at this time of year. As I said, the book’s ending had me eager to read more and learn all I could about the characters we’re left observing in the final moments. While this book probably isn’t joining Poe and Irving at the top of my Spoopy Favorites list, I do recommend it and I’ll probably come back to it again. (I’ll solve it first next time, though.)