Fiction Reviews

Black House

(2001) Stephen King/Peter Straub, HarperCollins, 17.99, hrdbk, 625pp, ISBN 0-00-710042-6

Seventeen years after their collaboration on The Talisman (1984), King and Straub resurrect the character of Jack Sawyer in this novel, a pendant to King's "Dark Tower" sequence of books. Having retired from his job as a homicide detective Sawyer has settled in the Wisconsin town of French Landing which is experiencing a wave of child killings. Then the serial killer dubbed 'The Fisherman' kidnaps Tyler Marshall and Sawyer is persuaded to lend a hand. But unknown to the residents of French Landing a much larger game is being played, for Tyler is a Breaker, taken by the Crimson King to help destroy the Beams that hold the Dark Tower in place. Can Sawyer and his allies find the child before he is enslaved? And what of the Black House outside of town, built by the killer and largely ignored for thirty years? To what dark lands does it lead?

This reads, perhaps unsurprisingly, more like King than Straub, but that is still very readable indeed. In all probability readers of this work will be familiar with the "Dark Tower" books, though such knowledge is not necessary to enjoy this tale, and a lot of King's work since he began the sequence are pendant to it (not least the novella Low Men in Yellow Coats in Hearts in Atlantis). The climax of the search for Tyley Marshall is a bit rushed and disappointing but, overall, this is still a good book. There's a hint that Sawyer might turn up in further "Dark Tower" volumes (it's been four years since the last, so we're just about due), and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tyler making an appearance either, but for that we'll have to wait and see.

Tony Chester

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