Ramsey Campbell. Forge, $23.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86344-9
A rebellious teenager's tense relationship with her father liberates fearsome monsters of English history in Campbell's strongest work since Midnight Sun. Amy Priestly has always dreaded ""the spider house,"" as she privately calls the abandoned Nazareth Hill monastery. When she and her father, Oswald, move into an apartment in the newly gentrified ""Nazarill,"" her fears are reinforced by the building's gloom: crawly things seem to crouch in its shadowy hallways. Worse, her father is becoming increasingly tyrannical. Campbell deftly balances hints of the supernatural with displays of Oswald's psychological malaise before letting all hell rip loose. Amy's discovery that Nazarill was once the site of an insane asylum and the torture den of a Witchfinder General sheds a ghastly light on her father's final, terrifying descent into madness. Although Campbell toes the line of subtlety and restraint drawn by M.R. James, who's an obvious influence on this novel, he delivers a visceral finale that will startle even the most jaded aficionado of modern horror. Sympathetic characters whose actions blur the boundaries between good and evil, between the real and imagined, contribute to the novel's complexity as a drama of misunderstanding and intolerance. With consummate skill, Campbell gives this tale of the past's stranglehold upon the present the thick and suffocating texture of an inescapable nightmare. (June) FYI: Campbell will be a guest of honor at the World Horror Convention in Niagara Falls this month.
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997