cover image Rook


Graham Masterton / Author Severn House Publishers $24 (0p) ISB

Launching a projected series, Masterton's (The House That Jack Built) new horror novel, published last year in Britain, seems tailored to appeal to youthful tastes. Its characters include a remedial class of college students whose learning disabilities make them seem younger than they are and who prove as unskeptical of the supernatural as the heroes of YA thrillers. They are all pupils of Jim Rook, a teacher whose hitherto dormant psychic abilities are put to the test when one class member is accused of killing another. Only Jim has the power to see the real murderer, a megalomaniacal voodoo master named Umber Jones who wreaks havoc during out-of-body experiences and forces Jim to serve as his emissary under the threat of death to the kids. Jim's colleagues think his repeated outbursts at invisible presences are the sign of an unhinged mind, but his loyal students know better and unite behind him. They overcome their personal handicaps to rescue him from temporary banishment in the astral plane and to help him beat Jones at his own game. Readers who prefer twists in their terror will find the uncomplicated plot bland and predictable. More's the pity, since Masterton's rainbow coalition of inner-city youths who pool wisdom distilled from the mystical beliefs of their varying ethnic backgrounds is an idea with potential left unrealized in the shallow treatment presented here. (Apr.)