I was drawn to this book firstly by the cover. Like so many horror novels from the eighties and early nineties, this one has . . . wait for it . . . an embossed skeleton. It's an eye-catching cover, so, after reading the back cover copy, I decided to give it a shot. The story is about a teenager who is a monk at a Spanish monastery who has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead. At first he is startled by his special talent, but eventually he becomes quite comfortable with his bizarre communications and learns of things that could potentially damage organized religion as we know it.
Despite having a decent hook, this book is a bit slow to gain speed, but when it does, it cooks. I'm not a religious guy, and though I enjoyed The Exorcist, I tent to steer away from books that have a sizable religious element, so I was kind of surprised that I enjoyed the hell out of this one. There are some great sequences and twists as out young monk leaves the monastery and really lives for the first time since he was just a little boy, only he is such a special individual that his life goes off the rails rather quickly. Some of the material seemed rushed, especially considering how easily he accepts what happens to him, particularly during the final third of the book. I also felt like some of the more powerful government and religious figures accepted his uncanny ability in ways that were almost implausible.
I rarely say that a book should be expanded upon, because I'm into lean and trim fiction, but this one feels like it could have been beefed up a bit to add some depth. Then again I might just be picking at it. I enjoyed the book, but I certainly don't see it making some kind of miraculous comeback (the edition I have was an early nineties reprint nearly ten years after being published initially in the UK under the title The Hiss). I will most certainly buy another from the author if I come across it. Aside from how quickly certain parts of the plot develop, it's an original story that doesn't rely on a path paved by the telekinetic kids, haunted houses, and haunted Indian burial grounds so many other authors of the time hacked to death.
That's it for now. Up next is either Stinger by Robert McCammon or Deadly Eyes (aka Rats) by James Herbert. See you then!