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4.4 out of 5 stars20
4.4 out of 5 stars
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With Nightshade, John Saul gets back to what he does best, giving birth to a story almost as chilling and compelling as his premier masterpiece Suffer the Children. Forget biomedical experimentation, genetic manipulation, and all of the other external forces that often lie behind Saul's plots; this book marks a return to good old-fashioned madness and horror. Of course, we start with the perfect all-American family-Joan Moore Hapgood, her son Matt, and husband Bill who has always thought of his step-son as his own true son. Suddenly, Joan's grim, bitter, nasty, Alzheimer's-afflicted mother almost burns her own house down and comes to live with the Hapgoods. Emily Moore is obsessed with her daughter Cynthia, the perfect child whom she refuses to believe is never coming back home to her. Immediately, Matt's nights are filled with the horrible nightmares he had not experienced since leaving Emily's home as a child to move to the home of his new step-father. Watching his mother-in-law tearing his happy family apart, Bill simply leaves his wife and son to the misery of Emily's company. A series of tragedies unfolds, affecting not only the family but the entire close-knit community. Matt changes into a haunted young man, seeing suspicion and dislike pointed toward him from everyone he has ever cared about. Misery turns to the ultimate tragedy, and the reader is left to ponder just who is responsible. Is it Matt, who looks guilty in the eyes of everyone else? Is it his aunt Cynthia, whose presence comes to permeate the house and exert an unhealthy influence on Matt's life in spite of the fact that she is long-dead? Or could it be someone or something else?
Saul hits a home run with this novel. Whatever suspicions the reader entertains, the truth is never truly known in spite of its foreshadowing, not until the ultimate conclusion. As the plot progresses, Saul slowly but surely increases the tension, drawing the reader further and further into this fascinating story. One is never really sure what to think about the action as it unfolds. Even when the true source of the horror is revealed a couple of chapters before the end, the heightened sense of expectation and worry for the characters so well-presented and seemingly real continues unabated. To some degree this is a ghost story, but it is better described as psychological horror. Madness makes for a much more compelling villain than outside entities, and that is why Nightshade stands as one of John Saul's most compelling novels. Filled with insanity, ghostly impressions, terror, murder, a bit of blood and gore, and a surprise or two at the end, Nightshade reveals the true talent that resides in the mind of an author too little appreciated by the horror community.
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VINE VOICEon 30 September 2009
When the very first chapter of a John Saul book features cruelty to a child, you know that he's playing to an old and successful formula. Nightshade is full of menace, with twists and turns, some more obvious that others. It's a story of paranoia, revenge, lust and betrayal, with a supernatural curve of course. Gripping from start to finish, and Nightshade is no short story, Saul has penned another decent horror tale. Recommended for any horror fan, especially if you're bored of the torrent of vampire and zombie books which currently fill the bookshelves.
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on 10 June 2007
As the title of my review suggests, I was very disturbed during and after reading this novel. I found some of the subject matter to be particularly disturbing -- childhood abuse, incest, etc. However, I must congratulate Saul on managing to use this material to powerful effect.

You might find this book slow to begin with, but stick with it, and you will be rewarded.

As an aside, the grandmother in this book is hilarious. Read it and see what I mean.
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on 8 November 2014
solidly written. but, without giving too much away. it seems to me that the author couldn't decide whether the story was a supernatural chiller or a psychological thriller and it suffered for this. the characters came across as shallow and one dimensional probably because the author was trying not to give the game away to early.
for me either the novel needed to be shorter or the characters filled out far more for the length.
I always finish any book I start, no matter how hard that proves to be and this one was hard and sadly predictable. I've given it three stars because there were signs though few of a good idea but just not handled right.
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on 25 November 2014
This book really kept me in suspense all the way through. I really enjoyed every part of this book. I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it as it was that good. In a crazy what I both was and wasn't expecting the ending to be the ending it was the most exciting and enthralling part of the book. One to definitely recommend.
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on 6 November 2014
Great storyline , could not put book down once I started reading, very well written and thought through, not my normal type of book but will without a doubt read all his other books, after I've finished his next one which I received directly after finishing this last one, you will not be disappointed .......
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on 28 October 2014
I loved this book! John Saul at his best. The story gripped you and wouldn't let go. A great page turner that I would recommend to all lovers of a spooky tale.
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on 5 September 2002
Okay this is the first and only thing that I have read by Mr. Saul, so I cannot say anything about his works in general.
This book is built upon the internal monologues of the main characters. The only problem is that the tone and style of all of these monologues are more or less the same. The book does not offer the tried (but effective) whodunnit device of teasing the reader with possible suspects. Basically, you turn to page X and find so-and-so with a shovel, which is used an exaggerated number of times within a short period of time. Unfortunately, the shovel is the best part of the book.
Also, the book is repetitive. "The house looked the same, but something had changed." "There was a coldness in the air." Yes, I suppose you could use these phrases as leitmotifs. However,without sufficient description of the setting, or
connection to the internal emotional state of the characters, these phrases are ineffective and annoying.
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on 12 November 2014
I enjoyed this book very much even though it was obvious early on what the outcome was going to be
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on 9 November 2014
Brilliant author, good story very pleased with purchase wish he would write more books
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