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.
What secrets are buried in Oasis, Florida? Who lives in the quaint gingerbread house and who are they watching?
Anna led them across the front room, which was furnished with antique couches and chairs. To the right, Linda stole a quick glimpse of the dining room with its beautiful crystal chandelier and large dining room set. On the left, she had already seen the quaint living room with its flowery curtains and ornate antique furniture. They climbed the narrow staircase, which was set back behind the front desk. At the top, Linda looked around and was startled to find that the house was much larger inside than it had appeared from the outside. As they followed the long hallway, they were shown five bedrooms: each with its own unique color scheme and furniture. The first room on the right was done all in pink with white and gold furniture. Toys were scattered about the room with dolls lined up on the bed—as if the inhabitant was expected to return at any moment. The room to the immediate left was decorated in blue, with boys’ dark furniture and toys. The next two bedrooms, on either side of the hallway, also displayed children’s furniture and belongings: one with green furnishings and the other one with purple. The last bedroom, straight ahead, belonged to Abe and Anna. Linda was entranced by the rooms and all the furnishings. When Anna requested for them to visit the attic, Linda agreed. She hoped the attic was full of old clothes and items from the past. They climbed a narrow staircase that descended from a trap door in the hall’s ceiling. They discovered the attic to be bare, except for the lone rocking chair that was facing the gravel road leading out of town. Linda walked over to gaze out the small triangular window, when the chair began to rock by itself. Anna said, “Everyone in the family takes turns watching the supposedly deserted mansion down the dirt road, and End House at the edge of the dark mountain. Both spots can be clearly seen from this vantage point.” Linda realized that this meant that someone was actually sitting in the chair—right at that moment— causing it to start rocking. She didn’t ask any more questions, but just grabbed Shana’s arm and pulled her out of the room, bidding the couple a hasty goodbye. She didn’t think that she could remain in this unnatural house one moment longer without either screaming or pulling her hair out. She was freaking out over the house and the strange story that she’d been just told.
Linda and Shana had to find answers to what was happening to their town. Young girls were disappearing and never heard from again. Strange shadows were stalking them in the evenings. What was going on?
They followed Main Street until it ended at the sheriff’s office. A narrow dirt road led the rest of the way from town. It ran past the bed and breakfast and the huge isolated mansion, before it curved farther inland to join the bustling highway. The sun was perched low in the sky, making everything around them appear hazy. In the distance, Linda caught a quick glimpse of the bed and breakfast with its purple gingerbread trim. Then the building seemed to be floating in the air. Linda had to blink her eyes several times to clear her vision so that she could see the pretty house with its wide porch. She was afraid that she was beginning to lose touch with reality. They turned off the road to walk up the path leading up to the front door. Nothing seemed to grow anywhere near the house: only sand and pebbles. They climbed the stairs and walked right in, since the door was standing wide open. Taking time for her eyes to adjust to the dark room, she noticed Abe Halloway sitting alone at the front desk, looking up at them. His wife, Anna, was standing nearby, dusting the dainty furniture with a feather duster. Abe came around from the desk to stand before them. Anna stopped dusting to stand beside him. They looked like they’d just stepped out of the American Gothic painting of the overalls-clad farmers—they just needed a pitchfork between the two of them. She didn’t understand why Abe always dressed in overalls, while Anna wore dresses from another century. They were both smiling now, so Linda walked over to greet them with a huge smile plastered on her face. “Hi! We were just taking a walk and realized that we haven’t visited this house in a long time. We never see either of you in town anymore.” They didn’t answer, but just watched her. Linda decided to attempt a different approach—it might not be as tactful, but what the hell; they were in real trouble. “Something bad is going on in town. People are disappearing and are even getting killed. Not only are we afraid, but so are the fishermen and their families. Have you heard anything about the weird goings-on in town?”