Book Review: The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Supernaturals
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 18, 2016)
Length: 400 pages
Author Information: Website
As far as haunted house stories go, I’ve read better but I’ve also read worse. Following the current trend of bringing reality television and social media into the horror genre, The Supernaturals attempts a modern twist on a classic premise.
Nestled in the picturesque Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania is said to be a luxurious mansion, built at the turn of the twentieth century to serve as a retreat for the rich and famous. Known as Summer Place, it is also alleged to have inspired Shirley Jackson’s famous horror masterpiece, The Haunting of Hill House. While it’s hard to imagine such a beautiful, charming place as the inspiration for such evil and terror, the mansion does have a somewhat checkered past. The most recent incident occurred in 2003, when a team of university students led by behavioral psychologist Professor Gabriel Kennedy ventured into Summer Place to debunk the presence of paranormal activity—only, the group re-emerged from the ordeal grieving and traumatized, with one less member. To this day, Gabriel has never forgiven himself for the loss of one of his students, who disappeared mysteriously without a trace that night, as though swallowed up by the very walls of the house itself.
Seven years later, a television producer named Kelly Delaphoy is eyeing Summer Place as the key to her big break: an ambitious undertaking to broadcast a live ghost-hunting event to millions of viewers on Halloween night. To lend legitimacy to the project, she convinces a reluctant Gabriel Kennedy to act as a consultant on the show, and he in turn recruits a few of his old friends to help, including a Native American dreamwalker; a young woman possessed by the spirit of a 1950s singer; a convict who is a clairvoyant; and a former gang member turned computer genius. Also along for the ride are an investigative field reporter smelling the opportunity for an exposé, as well as a homicide detective who has never stopped suspecting Gabriel for the disappearance of his student.
As you can see, there are quite a few characters to keep track of, and I can’t say many of them are very likeable (though to be fair, I think this is by design). Unfortunately, far too much page time is devoted to these unlikeable characters, and not enough on the really interesting ones like John Lonetree, George Cordero, Julie, or Lionel—Gabriel’s crack team of “Supernaturals”. While each of them had a compelling talent and backstory, ultimately I felt they were underutilized. It also probably comes as no surprise that the story became a lot more interesting once Gabriel’s team entered the picture—which doesn’t occur until well into the book.
As such, pacing issues abounded, and were perhaps this novel’s greatest weakness. I liked many of the ideas, but also got the sense that the author was overwhelmed in trying to include them all in his story. The plot was all over the place, like puzzle pieces that fit poorly together, and the result was an uneven narrative with stretches where nothing of importance would happen, punctuated with genuine moments of intrigue—though those were fewer and far between. It made me think this book could have benefited from more rigorous editing; it certainly didn’t have to be so long, and I think cutting down the more tedious sections would have improved the pacing.
As it is now, only final hundred pages or so held the real meat of the story. Still, what a conclusion it was! Full of thrills and chills, as all the build-up finally came to a head in Kelly Delaphoy’s live Halloween special. Secrets were revealed and mysteries were unraveled, and if some of the answers ended up being a little too predictable, at least I had fun.
The Supernaturals would probably make a good book for casual readers of horror, so long as you go in with the right expectations. Though it clearly draws inspiration from Shirley Jackson’s classic, this novel is far from being the next Haunting of Hill House, simply because the writing lacked the same intensity and the right sense of timing. Still, it was decent enough for a bit of light entertainment, and despite its weaknesses, I would put it on a list of “paranormal activity” novels worth looking into, especially if you’re a fan of haunted house stories.