Set around the old asylum in Blackstone town, which is being demolished, strange artifacts are appearing and being delivered to residents with disastrous results.The sins of the town are coming back to haunt the citizens.
Blackstone - a small New England town whose long-buried secrets and sins are coming back to life. To haunt. To terrorise...
From the top of Blackstone's highest hill, the old Blackstone Asylum casts its shadow over the village. Built in the 1890s, the Asylum has been vacant for many years. But now, the wrecker's ball is poised to strike, smashing into the old stones - and unleashing a terrible evil, an unholy fear long locked within these cold walls.
Soon, strange gifts - a doll, a locket, a handkerchief - begin to appear on the doorsteps of the town's finest citizens. Each carries a mysterious history. Each brings a horrifying power to harm. And Blackstone, if it is to survive this horror, must discover and atone for the sins of its fathers...
Saul tells the reader from the outset that the destruction of the Asylum will change everyone's life, then goes about proving it. Because his characters are not fully developed, they do not inspire the reader's sympathy when they change from ordinary citizens to demons or when their lives move from normalcy to chaos, especially at the beginning. The stories move along quickly and inevitably, the Gothic shock evolving from the amount of cruelty and the amount of horror, rather than from our knowledge of the individuals and our surprise at their behavior.
Throughout the series, the agonizing tortures (in the name of "cures") at the Asylum fifty years ago are interspersed with modern day life, and occasionally Saul gives us the name of a former employee or resident of the Asylum which enables the reader to tie a contemporary victim to the history of the Asylum. The victims are usually one or two generations removed from the events in the Asylum, however, and not directly responsible for what happened there, so one wonders why the "dark figure" is emphasizing the "sins of the father" by punishing the children or grandchildren.
Filled with blood-drenched rooms, sudden explosions, unexplained attacks on seemingly innocent people, and wholesale destruction, the series does not show clear motivation for all this horror, the shock of which dulls over time. The "dark figure" has little direct involvement in the havoc, once he has given an object from the Asylum to his next victim, and he fails to evolve as a terrifying force. Though the ending answers some of the questions, it does not connect all the victims or answer all the questions. (And many readers will figure out the identity of the "dark figure" by the end of Volume 4.) Ultimately, I was disappointed that the violence and horror exist here for their own sake. There is no accountability for the death and destruction, leaving the reader with the feeling that justice has not been served. Mary Whipple
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