Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Vanishing - Bentley Little

The Vanishing
Bentley Little


Brian Howells, a reporter, is more concerned with family problems than with his new job at the L.A. Times. His mother tells him that his father, who abandoned the family more than twenty years ago without explanation, is back. But there’s something very, very wrong. When Brian sees the letter his father sent, he begins to understand his mother’s fears. It’s made up of alien, scrawled symbols, and bracketed with what looks like bloody fingerprints. The symbols fill Brian with dread, not least because, recently, various wealthy men have suddenly snapped and butchered their families in spectacularly bloody ways.

Slowly, Brian starts to put things together, heeding the advice of a financial reporter who tells him to “follow the money.” He hopes to find his father again, but is afraid of exactly what he’ll find. Eventually, he meets social worker Carrie Daniels, who can add more pieces to the puzzle. She’s seen several children who were born with grotesque deformities. And she has inside information about one wealthy businessman in particular.

Interspersed with the present day crimes, is the story of James Marshall, a man who joined a wagon train heading west to California in the 1840s. James is convinced that there’s great wealth to be found in California. When he arrives, he finds that great wealth can come at a great and terrible price.

If you’re faint of heart or weak of stomach, you’d best skip this one. For fans of horror, a new novel from Bentley Little is always good news. The carnage begins in the very first chapter. From there, readers follow Brian and Carrie as they struggle to put together seemingly disparate events and people into a coherent big picture. Usually, Little excels at taking something mundane (buying an insurance policy, taking the family on vacation at a resort) and building a sense of terror from the most banal foundations. This time, however, is a bit of a stumble as he weaves a rather obvious message into a large story. While not his personal best, it’s still head and shoulders above almost anyone else writing horror today, and horror fans will compulsively turn pages until the end.

Rating: 8
August 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22185-8 (paperback)


At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Gatlin Fernandes said...

I came to this novel after reading Bentley's excellent 'The Mailman' and 'The Academy'. Though not for everyone, 'The Vanishing' does have a kind of grotesque feel to it and actually makes you think.


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