cover image Dark Inspiration

Dark Inspiration

Russell James. Samhain (, $15 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-60928-669-9

James’s unremarkable debut is a conventional haunted house story with a premise that too often recalls Stephen King’s The Shining, which James name-checks in passing. When New Yorkers Doug and Laura Locke decide to relocate to rural Tennessee in an effort to revive their failing marriage and careers, they purchase a majestic old farmhouse, sight unseen. The house’s dark history, including the deaths of twin five-year-old girls, and its bizarre secrets, such as an ancestral graveyard and a menagerie of taxidermied animals in a hidden attic, begin to have an insidious effect on its new owners. The “ghost girls” in the nursery enchant Laura, while Doug, an aspiring novelist, becomes possessed by the murderous spirit of the house’s previous owner. While the narrative is fluid and engaging, it’s flattened by undeveloped characters, a formulaic plot, and an exciting but somewhat predictable conclusion. (Feb.)