Picks and Pans Review: Pet Sematary

updated 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Stephen King

"You do it because it gets hold of you" is how one character in Pet Sematary explains his actions. But it would be just as apt an explanation for why a reader is willing to plunge deeper and deeper into this macabre tale. It is the story of a doctor who moves to a house in Maine with his wife and two children. In the woods behind their house is the cemetery of the title (misspelled by a child in the book). The family has a cat named Winston Churchill—Church, for short—and it doesn't take a genius to figure out where Church is going to end up sooner or later. What follows is, by and large, just as predictable, considering King's allusions to W.W. Jacobs' The Monkey's Paw and the legend of Lazarus. But the story is gripping nonetheless. As usual, King fills his pages with odd scraps of Americana—from Hefty bags to a Mixmaster—and a mounting sense of foreboding. The doctor's transformation from a decent family man to an instrument of evil recalls The Shining. It is, no doubt, dust-jacket hyperbole, but the author himself is said to have found this novel, his 10th, "so horrifying that he was for a time unwilling to finish writing it." Readers, on the other hand, will find it so scary they are all but compelled to finish reading it. (Doubleday, $15.95)

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