Review: Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden
Also by this author: Snowblind
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 3rd 2015
With a deep history that threads back to the days of Alistair Crowley and an ancient house, the spirits of some long dead magicians live on by possessing the lives of others in the present day.
When Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband Nick on a Boston sidewalk, she's furious at him for pretending he doesn't know her. She calls his cell to have it out with him, only to discover that he's in New Hampshire with his current girlfriend. But if Nick's in New Hampshire...who did she encounter on the street?
Frank Lindbergh's dreams have fallen apart. He wanted to get out of the grim neighborhood where he'd grown up and out of the shadow of his alcoholic father. Now both his parents are dead and he's back in his childhood home, drinking too much himself. As he sets in motion his plans for the future, he's assaulted by an intruder in his living room...an intruder who could be his twin.
In an elegant hotel, Tess will find mystery and terror in her own reflection. Outside a famed mansion on Beacon Hill, people are infected with a diabolical malice...while on the streets, an eyeless man, dressed in rags, searches for a woman who wears Tess's face.
The concept behind Dead Ringers is definitely a bit creepy and as you get further into the book, there are some seriously haunting scenes. The thought of suddenly coming across another person that is so identical to yourself, to the point that even close family can not tell the difference is strange. I will admit at times something about this tested my willing suspension of disbelief, I think because it happened to a number of characters. But really I think the reason I was not as easily swayed had more to do with the number of central characters.
Horror books really rely on the readers emotions for them to be fully effective. The best way to get a very emotional reaction from the reader is to get them to really, really care about the characters. There were more perspectives in this than there tend to be with horror (pretty sure there were 4), and while I understand the need, I do feel like it put a little bit of a barrier for the reader to really get attached to any of them just because the pages were split amongst several people which gives the author less time to form that connection with each of the characters. Another side effect of this was I felt like the characters were more defined by their past and current events rather than any real depth of personality. With one female character in particular, this bothered me. I felt like she was given a traumatic past to explain her apprehension and/or fear in situations. I think her having a traumatic past could be fine, but something about how it was delivered left me feeling like it was being used as a character development tool rather than feeling like a natural reveal about the character. This likely is a result of each character getting so little time devoted to development as a result of the larger cast. As a reader, I couldn’t help but wonder if my experience with this book could have been improved if more time was spent on developing just one or two characters rather than splitting the focus.
Of the characters, I do feel like there were two “main” characters that were a little better developed than the others. Tess and her ex-husband Nick were central to the story and both felt a bit more realized. But even still, I did not feel as connected to either of the two of them as I would like. And I also felt like they both were defined a bit more by events rather than personality, just not quite to the extent as the others. Maybe this is not a problem for other readers, I just felt for me there was something lacking to get me to really, really care about the characters like I need to with horror books.
Another small issue I had was at times I felt like the book would be recapping events that just happened. I honestly could not figure out the purpose of this. It was similar to when an author recaps events from a previous book, but this was obviously within the same one. I can’t say I paid enough attention to figure out if it just happened when switching to a different POV (so we would read about events through one characters perspective, then when it would switch to another perspective, there would be a little recap). And I can’t say it happened real often, but it did happen, and more than once. I suppose if it took me months to finish a book, that could be helpful, but I don’t fall into that category so I found it more distracting than anything else (like, I just read this, why is it being reiterated?)
I left this book remembering some pretty freaky scenes (always a good thing), but also wishing I had cared a bit more about the characters. Despite my negativity, I do think there is an audience for the book, and I did enjoy it. If you are the type of reader that needs a really strong connection with the characters, then I’m not sure this is the best fit, but if you are looking for a haunting story, then it might be worth a try.
This review was originally posted on The Speculative Herald.