Gripping horror, March 14, 2015
This review is from: The Dead Game (Kindle Edition)
“Beneath the pretty field of flowers growing on End House property, exists an evil so great and powerful that even the elders can’t fight it on their own.” Who are the elders? What is The Dead Game, what is the relationship between the wicked vampires, good vampires, human vampires and what role do spells and magic play in Susanne Leist’s hugely enjoyable horror novel? If you want to learn the answers then you’ll need to read The Dead Game, and if you enjoy this type of fiction then I strongly suggest you do.
The author wastes no time laying out her literary stall. After a gripping prologue replete with bloody tentacles and a swirling vortex Leist ends her introduction with, “No sounds or voices were heard again. End House remained empty until the party five years later that awoke the house to the possibility of new victims.” I especially enjoyed the prologue as I’m not a big fan of the slow burn or the slow build. When chapter 1 begins with descriptions of the quaint shops, pristine white sand beaches, tree lined walkways and grassy town parks of the picturesque town of Oasis we know that this tranquility is illusory, ephemeral at best. When Linda and the others receive invitations to End House the sense of suspense quickly grows and it isn’t long before we’re plunged into supernatural horror once more.
Some books you can’t help but imagine as films and for me, The Dead Game is one of these. I could easily see myself watching something like this on the horror channel or a Fright Night special. The characters are well drawn as are the interactions and interpersonal conflicts but in essence it is the narrative, the “game” itself which drives the tale as the victims wonder if their fate is to “all die in this house, one by one.”
On the whole the novel pretty much played out as I expected and the diabolical vampire, Wolf, was very much part of this. Even the little surprise right at the end wasn’t such a surprise. Yet for me at least, this is not to the work’s detriment. The Dead Game is extremely well written with vivid (often extremely vivid) descriptions, the premise is strong, the central characters well drawn and the actions and reveals continue to build throughout. If I had one criticism it is that of the narrative layering. Linda is the main protagonist and as such needs to be the focus a little more in the story. It is through the central character after all that the reader best experiences the roller coaster of emotions, especially fear and hope, of a horror novel. Although a fan of James Herbert this is an aspect that I never enjoyed of the late British horror writer’s work.
Notwithstanding this minor quibble, if you like this type of fiction then you will love Dead Game. I certainly did.