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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing, well-told story -- but it leaves too many questions unanswered, 24 Nov 2009
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: House of Reckoning (Hardcover)
Billed as "vintage John Saul" and a novel that recaptures the energy and power of Suffer the Children, the author's first and best novel, House of Reckoning doesn't succeed at living up to all of the hype. That being said, it is an absorbing and very good read. I don't think Saul will ever get the respect he truly deserves in the horror community, but this man knows how to tell a story and excels at building the most sympathetic of characters. House of Reckoning isn't a novel that's going to sit around on the night table for days once you start reading it; you'll want to finish this book in a matter of a few days. As much as I enjoyed this novel, though, a plethora of nagging questions remain unanswered or less than fully addressed after in the end.

When you pick up a John Saul novel, you know you're going to be reading about good kids placed in horrible situations; the Saul pattern never really changes, a fact which his critics are more than happy to expound upon. Poor Sarah Crane may be the most sympathetic character of them all, though. Six months after her mother died of cancer, Sarah finds herself laid up in the hospital for weeks with a busted leg and hip (a tragedy suffered under some of the most tragic circumstances imaginable) while her father goes to jail for manslaughter. Once she's able to leave the hospital, she is placed with a foster family who treat (and mistreat) her as nothing more than slave labor. As the new, crippled kid at school, she is immediately ostracized. Her only friends are Bettina Philips, a most sympathetic art teacher (whom everyone in town labels a witch) and the designated crazy kid at school, Nick Dunnigan, who hears voices in his head and sees horrible visions. When Sarah is around, though, the voices in Nick's head are silent. The uncanny link between Sarah and Nick is also shared by Bettina - or, to be more precise, the old house in which she lives, which used to be an institution for the criminally insane.

Though never remotely frightening, House of Reckoning does have a share of intense moments, with a few sudden (albeit somewhat predictable) surprises thrown in along the way. Saul packages the whole thing in a tight and pretty bow, but various aspects of the ending just don't ring true. Not only do several questions go unanswered, numbered among those are a couple of last-minute questions you wonder why Saul even raised in the first place. A religious aspect that Saul adds to the story also bothers me, as it is unclear what Saul's point is supposed to be. Sarah's foster family is supposedly ultra-religious in an Old Salem kind of way, but there is no evidence of this in their behavior and actions (especially in regards to Sarah). It's unclear if Saul is attacking Christianity in and of itself (perhaps as a byproduct of his own homosexuality) or just trying to add some unnecessary spice to the story.

Despite all of my criticisms and the novel's obvious weaknesses, though, I truly enjoyed reading House of Reckoning. It can be frustrating at times to be a John Saul fan, but the good almost always outweighs the bad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gently eerie mystery/thriller with a large spoonful of the supernatural., 10 April 2014
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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I read House of Reckoning several years ago, originally published 2009, and it's a typical John Saul fiction with his usual blend of thriller/mystery running alongside themes of the supernatural. In this novel John Saul introduces another of his teen protagonists. He's good at creating these mixed up, confused, hormone driven characters and placing them in decidedly difficult situations. Sarah Crane is no exception.

Sarah has lost her mother to a terminal illness which serves as the catalyst for her being both injured and finding herself in foster care. Things don't go well for Susan. A series of odd coincidences and school bullying throw her into a despertate situation until Nick Duggard arrives on the scene and Sarah develops a connection with the oddest boy in town.

In most of John Saul's novels there's a nicely worked background of the 'Gothic' and it's here in the shape of Bettina Phillips, art teacher, and the very strange Shutters Mansion. Bettina lives alone with just cats for company and the mystery of her strange home, rumoured to have once been and asylum, is slowly revealed as Sarah acts as a channel for 'things unspoken' in the house through her paintings. Nick is also being dragged into the mystery of Shutters Mansion and not in a good way!.

There's a series of sub-plots worked through the novel involving the history of a close knit and eccentric small town with it's own share of buried secrets and a deeply trouble led past and it seems Sarah and Nick have been 'chosen' to unlock the mystery and solve the riddle. Have they got time before the house and it's energies swallow them whole?. Is it possible the mysterious happenings are merely the product of two disturbed teenage imaginations?.

I enjoyed the novel because it has that old fashioned feel that's much more about building the atmosphere and mystery behind the story than it is about keeping the reader hooked with gratuitous gore. Did I find it scary?. I found the novel gently eerie and interesting but never frightening, gruesome or particularly dark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, 18 Mar 2011
By 
P. French (UK) - See all my reviews
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I am a big John Saul fan and have read all his books. This was by far the best he has written for a while. Kept me on my toes, I have grown up with these books and feel at times they are no longer meant for my age group!!! But I did enjoy this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent summer read, 15 July 2014
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This review is from: House of Reckoning (Kindle Edition)
Excellent summer read!! Good against evil, slightly stretches the imagination but a lovely story which plays out well. Not his best novel but always a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Author, 13 Mar 2013
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Good condition. A great book by my fave author. I recommend this book to all horror fans. Well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 Aug 2014
Another great read from the master himself John Saul.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 22 Aug 2014
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brilliant as usual
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House of Reckoning
House of Reckoning by John Saul
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