Picks and Pans Review: Ghost Story

updated 04/23/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/23/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Peter Straub

The novel begins with the kidnapping of a strange little girl by an unstable young man. Will he kill her? He seems to want to. Then abruptly the book turns to four elderly men, longtime friends, who meet to tell frightening stories. One of them describes a book he is reading as "a nice exercise in genre writing. More literary than most. A few nice phrases, a reasonably well constructed plot." That sums up this novel fairly well, except Ghost Story's plot is complex, with elaborate tales within tales, not to mention nightmares and hallucinations. In one section, the novel intentionally imitates Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, and there are shades of Edgar Allan Poe and werewolf legends. Basically this is a writer's stunt, effectively scary at times, by a young veteran of netherworld fiction. But at 485 pages it ultimately proves excessive. When the reader begins to confuse the living with the dead, the narrative is out of control. (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $10.95)

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