In The Dark Of The Night by John Saul
Pros: Engaging story…
Cons: … with unrealistic elements and ridiculous character flaws
In The Dark Of The Night by John Saul is a decent thriller, if you can handle a story that falls into the realms of “horror” and “paranormal”. This is not normally my preference. I prefer my thrillers to be set in realistic terms – something that could happen, thus making it ever more scary. But when stories rely on items of “other-worldly” origins, the story becomes far less real, and, in my opinion, far less enjoyable. Granted, this is something that Saul is known for, but in this book it seemed more prevalent than usual.
However, In The Dark Of The Night isn’t terrible, in fact, I enjoyed it. Just know what you’re getting into.
It should be an idyllic summer… Renting a house by a lake… Sixteen-year-old Eric is ecstatic – he’s been looking forward to this for so long. Despite the misgivings of his worry-wort Mom – one of those people who can only see the bad in any situation – Eric can’t wait to start his dream-summer!
But when Eric and his friends discover a cache of long-abandoned items in a shed on the rented property, things start to go awry. The items, themselves, look innocuous enough. A table with three legs, and a table leg by itself. A hacksaw with no blade, and a blade by itself. A lamp with no shade, and a shade by itself… But Eric and his friends feel a compulsion they can’t explain – a need to put the items back together again. But doing so seem to unleash an energy – a fury that gets stronger and stronger until its full release.
The book tries to tie together events from seven years ago – hinted at, in the prologue – with the events in the current time. But I don’t think it accomplishes this goal too well. There are quite a few holes that never get filled.
There’s also a subplot – the “townies” versus the “summer tourists”. A bunch of rotten kids with nothing better to do than to cause mayhem for no good reason at all. It was trite, added nothing to the main story, and made me feel like I was reading a book from the YA section.
Then there’s Eric’s Mom. I get that Saul decided to paint her as a worry-wort. But he took her “quirks” to a ridiculous level. The funniest part was when the family experiences a flat tire, in the rain, on the way up to the lake. First she decides this is a sign that they should cancel the whole trip. Then, after her family shuts that notion down, she doesn’t want her husband to change the tire in the rain because “he might drown”. Oy. C’mon, Mr. Saul, if you want to give us “quirky” don’t make it ridiculous.
But even with all of its flaws, I still found In The Dark Of The Night to be a compelling read. I was interested to figure out exactly what was going on, and how it would all end. And even though it went to extremes I don’t prefer, I still flipped those pages pretty quickly, engaged in the story. Finally, there’s an epilogue that I really enjoyed.
My recommendation: read it, if you like thrillers, and can handle the unrealistic aspects, and a few flaws.