by Jack Ketchum
Ketchum transforms his passion for an independent, self-destructive woman (explicitly depicted and analyzed in a personal narrative postscript) into an interesting little tale about the fate of the Girl with Death in Her Eyes and the poor sap who loves her. the first three-quarters of the novel efficiently and expertly details the small-town, dead-end life of the sympathetic young narrator as he widens his horizons, courtesy of a few sometimes-tragic, always-swingin' rich kids enjoying their summer holiday. the writing is strong, poetic, very clear, very straightforward.
then in the end, things get dark. quite dark! which will only surprise those readers unfamiliar with Ketchum's novels. the final quarter is pure bad-house-with-a-bad-history horror, a quick descent from eerie to genuinely scary and then into bloodily, viscerally graphic. the sudden move from elegiac, erotic coming-of-age tale into stomach-turning grotesquerie worked perfectly for me but would doubtless prove upsetting to many.
a minor work but often surprisingly powerful. Ketchum is a ghettoized but not-exactly unsung author; this novel proves that he has the skills to pay the bills if he ever chose to work outside of horror. but why should he? he's a modern classic and a leader in the genre.