Kim Saunders has possessed psychic abilities since birth. Paranormal experiences have peppered her life. Now a college student, she finds herself, along with three other members of Professor Geoffrey Burke’s parapsychology class, enlisted in a “ghost hunt” at the deserted Woodfield Movie Theater in Harmony, Indiana. Professor Burke has unrevealed motives toward his students. So does the Woodfield.
Michael West takes his readers on a no-holds-barred romp through a story that brings together some of the most classic and fun icons of scary literature. He gives us ghosts, demons, gargoyle statues come to life, and one of the coolest haunted locations I’ve been inside of in a long time. The Woodfield could give the Overlook hotel a run for its title of Really Bad Place.
West also brings a cast of well-drawn, thoroughly rounded characters to the page. Kim Saunders engaged my sympathy from the first page, and as she learns to cope with and use her “gift”, I found myself liking her more and more. Professor Burke is a weak man using others for his selfish ends, but he is by no means a cardboard cut-out of the Evil Scientist. Burke’s motives earn him a twinge of sympathy, too. Nor does the author bring on a chorus of minor characters just so he can kill them in interesting ways. The supporting cast are individual, believable characters. The romantic subplot is substantial and plausible, not just an excuse for gratuitous sex. It’s West’s avoidance of so many of the worn out clichés that raise this book above the herd. It’s not what you expect. I like that.
There are so many great scenes in this book. The “Preview Of Coming Attractions”. Burke’s final confrontation with the Big Bad. My favorite, though, comes when Kim and her classmates investigate a haunted house and confront the spirits of an evil man and the daughter he molested and then killed. In this scene, West’s prose both chills the soul and warms the heart. I finished it with goosebumps on my skin and tears in my eyes.
And he does it all with readable, beautiful, tidy wordsmithing, in a refreshing style as if you were listening to the boy next door, a boy who can tell a really good story. No intellectual posturing to confuse things up, no self conscious and author intrusive over writing. Just clear, bell-like prose and a story that keeps you asking, “And then what?”, as you turn the pages as fast as you can.
Did I mention the return of Robbie from West’s The Wide Game? And Matthew Perry’s illustrations that almost leap off the page? Fun, fun, fun.
Don’t start reading Cinema Of Shadows on a weeknight, because you’re going to end up calling in to work from lack of sleep. Save it for the weekend, because you’re going to be up all night, unable to put it down until you finish, and not sleeping so well after you do.
Cinema Of Shadows
Seventh Star Press
Limited Edition Hardback $34.95
Trade Paperback $19.95