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House of Reckoning: A Novel Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Constant Fear
Constant Fear
Constant Fear "firmly places [author] Palmer alongside the likes of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner." — The Providence Journal

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Vermont, this supernatural thriller from bestseller Saul (Faces of Fear) updates but adds nothing new to a traditional story. Six months after 14-year-old Sarah Crane's mother dies from cancer, Sarah's father, Ed, accidentally kills a man in a fight. On top of that, a drunken Ed hits Sarah with his truck while he's behind the wheel. After Ed goes to prison for manslaughter, Sarah, whose leg was badly injured in the truck accident, is placed with a foster family. Mitch and Angie Garvey and their two teenage children treat Sarah like Cinderella, expecting her to serve meals and do all the chores. Meanwhile, word of Sarah's circumstances makes her an outcast at her new school. Only two people reach out to her: Bettina Philips, an art teacher labeled a witch, and fellow student Nick Dunnigan, who's also isolated by his peers and prone to scary visions. Needless to say, the mystical abilities Sarah discovers she possesses come in handy in turning the tables. (Oct.)
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“The storytelling is . . . undeniably powerful as it brings to vivid life an adolescent’s zero-sum view of moral realities.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Scary . . . It is the house that is the real star of the story.”—Lincoln Journal Star
“John Saul has the instincts of a natural storyteller.”—People

From the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345514246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345514240
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,270,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

House of Reckoning is John Saul's thirty-sixth novel. His first novel, Suffer the Children, published in 1977, was an immediate million-copy bestseller. His other bestselling suspense novels include Faces of Fear, In the Dark of the Night, Perfect Nightmare, Black Creek Crossing, Midnight Voices, The Manhattan Hunt Club, Nightshade, The Right Hand of Evil, The Presence, Black Lightning, The Homing, and Guardian. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling serial thriller The Blackstone Chronicles, initially published in six installments but now available in one complete volume. Saul divides his time between Seattle, Washington, and Hawaii.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
John Saul has had success as a writer of popular horror fiction for over four decades. He has maintained his popularity by continuously applying the elements of horror and conflicted characterization that signifies this genre. With HOUSE OF RECKONING, his latest effort, Saul returns to this familiar landscape and once again features his signature element: the teenaged protagonist.

High school student Sarah Crane is lamenting the loss of her mother to cancer six months earlier. This tragedy has crippled her father, Ed, and has forced him to seek solace at the bottom of the bottle. And as if things weren't bad enough, his alcohol abuse serves as the catalyst for two horrific events: the manslaughter of a fellow bar patron during a drunken brawl, and the injuring of Sarah in a drunk driving accident. The former deed places Ed in prison and Sarah in foster care.

Sarah eventually is taken in by the Garvey family. Ironically, her foster father Mitch happens to be a prison guard where Ed is being held. The Garveys are staunchly (if not hypocritically) religious, and Sarah does not fit in well there. Furthermore, she must face the constant taunts of her new high school classmates, who mock both her permanent limp and her murderer father. The only student with whom she is able to connect is another outcast, Nick Dunnigan, a delusional schizophrenic.

Sarah also finds comfort in an art class, taught by a unique character named Miss Bettina Phillips. Bettina resides alone with several dogs and cats in Shutters Mansion, a place that once served as an insane asylum. In eerie fashion, she is able to channel feelings from Bettina's home, and she begins to paint images of Shutters and some of its less-than-friendly past inhabitants.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Countess Chocula VINE VOICE on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
House of Reckoning is John Saul's 36th novel and he doesn't veer too far off the plot track of his previous 35, with spooky kids, a haunted house and a laundry list of baddies just begging to be punished.

The basic plot: Sarah Crane has led a pretty cruddy 14 years. Her mother died, and her father, drowning in his own grief, gets drunk and kills a man - and then driving home drunk, hits Sarah on her bike, breaking her hip and leg and setting into motion the remainder of the book.

Now in an abusive foster home, Sarah is an outcast, a "crip" because of her limp. Nick Dunnigan is equally shunned by his classmates; he suffers from apparent schizophrenia, hearing voices in his head. That is, until he meets Sarah. I won't spoil the second half of the book very much, but will say that Sarah, Nick and art teacher Bettina Philips have a sort of unholy connection to a former mental institution that Bettina has inherited and is living in. Anyone who's read previous John Saul novels (especially his earliest work) knows what follows; ghostly voices, a sort of psychic connection between Sarah and Nick, a house that comes alive with a vengeance (literally).

Pros for House of Reckoning: there are some interesting plot points that tie the three lead characters together, and towards the end of the book, Saul does live up to his reputation for turning on the chills. I also liked his filling out of all of the characters. Given the short-ish length of the book, it takes great skill to get into the heads of the number of characters playing key roles in the story. Saul's writing is generally crisp; there wasn't a time when I was tempted to skip ahead, even for the first half of the book, which was actually rather boring.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ChibiNeko VINE VOICE on October 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While I do like John Saul's work, this book just isn't the best thing he's put out. The book promises a lot of stuff, some of which is typical Saul fare: children in peril, human & supernatural evils run amok, & twisty plot turns. Unfortunately the book just couldn't live up to those promises, at least not entirely.

The plotline follows the character of Sarah, a young girl whose mother died when she was about 14. When her father is incarcerated for a barroom brawl gone murderous, not to mention accidentally running her over, it seems as if Sarah will never be happy again. These fears only grow stronger when her new foster family is barely hospitable to her & grows even less so by each passing day. Only her art class & a strange boy lifts Sarah's spirits, even as mysteries spring up around her & evils from the past mingle with the evils of the present.

Where do I begin with the critique of this book? While I did enjoy reading this book, I just felt as if the book took the easy way out of everything. The plotline was interesting, but it felt sort of... mechanical. Everything seemed to be a little rushed & none of the book's characters or plot progression seemed to be organic. It felt more like "plot point A leads to plot point B which leads to...". Don't get me wrong- this is an enjoyable read for a few hours, but I've read far better from John Saul in the past. This just came across as sort of a first draft of sorts. It just needed to be fleshed out more & have the rough edges smoothed out. The ending especially needs to be slowed down a bit- it just seems to go a little too fast for everything that has happened. (Maybe if some of the ending happened earlier in the book?)

But overall this book was ok.
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