. White Wolf Games Studio, $14.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56504-907-9
In his hardcover debut, paperback horror maven Hautala (Shades of Night) skillfully deploys spooks, suspense and domestic drama to maneuver around the plot holes created by adapting White Wolf's game, ""Wraith: The Oblivion''--a card-based, role-playing scenario--as the basis for his novel. The Shadowlands host many strange beings, including cryptic ferrymen, grim reapers and wraiths like David Robinson, a horror writer whose corpus (or soul) is trapped there following his accidental death. Hautala delineates this realm's rich weirdness through David's gradual indoctrination into its mysteries. Ultimately, he renders the Shadowlands as palpable as the environs of Portland, Maine, where David's ex-wife, Sarah, has taken a lover in thrall to the evil influence that imbues a knife once used by Jack the Ripper. Tension builds as a discorporate David struggles to alert Sarah to her danger, and to resist the lure of the nihilism of Oblivion. Hautala further spices matters with a subplot involving David's dead daughter, whose presence in the Shadowlands increases his vulnerability. The novel ends with the intervention of a savior ex machina, and the hint of a sequel or two, but nonetheless Hautala spins a spellbinding tale of love and death that should captivate even those not familiar with its gaming inspiration. (May) FYI: Wraith: The Oblivion is one of five scenarios from the World of Darkness role-playing game that White Wolf has licensed for use in dark fantasy stories and novels (e.g., Bob Weinberg's Vampire Diary, 1994).
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996