cover image The Count of Eleven

The Count of Eleven

Ramsey Campbell. Tor Books, $19.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85350-1

Veteran horror-meister Campbell ( Waking Nightmares ) fails to thrill convincingly in this tale of a gentle man who kills to improve his luck. Loving husband and doting father Jack Orchard runs a video store in the idyllic English seaside town of New Brighton. When the shop burns down and he discovers his insurance had lapsed, Jack knows why: he'd received a chain letter and broken the chain! Orchard digs the forsaken missive out of the trash. ``Turn ill luck into good,'' it begins. ``Mrs. Marsha Indick of Iowa sent 13 copies to friends and was cured of a 20-year-old cancer . . . This letter can change your life.'' Numbers begin rushing through Jack's head. Besides 13, there is 11, the number of letters in his name. Jack--who will later call his transformed self the Count--makes 13 copies of the letter and mails them. Anticipating good luck now that he has relinked the chain, he is bitterly disappointed when bad things happen instead: his wife loses her job; the bank reneges on a loan; thugs attack his teenage daughter. By Jack's twisted reasoning, this run of bad luck means the chain has been broken by all the recipients of his letter. When each proves unresponsive to his pleas, mild-mannered Orchard becomes the Count and begins a series of repetitively gruesome murders that carry this plodding tale to its predictable denouement. (June)