Monday, April 25, 2016
Review: "The Throat" by Peter Straub
Peter Straub, over the course of his long career has slowly but surely gotten under the skins of horror fans with his quasi-horror, quasi-mystery stories that leave a profoundly unsettling mark on readers. I read A Dark Matter a few years ago, and found it a haunting story about monstrous deeds and the sometimes physical demons that can arise from the past. Over the past three years, I have read all three of his Blue Rose books, from Koko, a book I didn’t really like all that much (although I feel it is going to be the book I reread next year) to Mystery, which was a bit too strange to be really, really good, but I did not expect something quite as good and as engrossing as The Throat, the last and longest of three rather long novels. First, I do not think that it is completely necessary to have read the two other books before reading this one. You will find a few sly references, but nothing too major or distracting will be lost if you choose to read this one first (also, at the beginning, it explains pretty well what connects all three books). Having gotten that out of the way, this book matches its intensity with its intricacy, its horror and gore with dread-filled set-pieces and moments of palpable disquiet. You will want to read some passage in the day time for sure. The novel’s narrator is Tim Underhill, a writer with a dark past that includes his sister’s murder and two brushes with evil in the jungles of Vietnam who finds himself in something of a crisis as he tries to finish his new novel. His visions of his past as well as detailed hallucinations almost force him back into the bottle. He gets a call from an old friend of his, John Ransom, who still lives in his home town of Millhaven, Illinois. He calls to tell him that his wife was severely beaten by an unknown assailant, a crime which may have something to do with the town’s infamous Blue Rose murders, which have supposedly been solved for year. Tim had written a novel based on the events, and John feels Tim is the key to solving the mysteries the town still holds onto. Bur when he arrives, Tim is swept up in powers beyond his, and everyone else’s control, with both his past and the past of the town itself sneaking up behind him, ready to destroy everything. Straub is a master of mood, much like Lovecraft, with scenes in darkly lit basements, wooded areas, and a memorable one on a fog-filled suburban street. They leave you on edge, and linger in your mind long after you have finished reading them. Along with that, I was impressed by how complex the plot turned out to be. It was exhausting at times keeping track of details, but it was always interesting and exciting, especially in the books final pages and its final lasting creepy revelation. This is long, involving read for sure, but one rich in wonder and intelligence from one of America’s masters of the macabre.