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The Keeper Mass Market Paperback – August 29, 2006

106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her assured but overstuffed horror debut, Langan lovingly crafts the struggling town of Bedford, Maine, its unlucky inhabitants and the troubling history of the town's shuttered paper mill, before tearing it all to bloody pieces. Bedford is haunted by the beautiful Susan Marley, a damaged young woman who wanders the streets and never speaks a word, stirring "feeling[s] of something undone, something quite wrong, at the sight of her." Those feelings are strongest in Susan's maladjusted little sister, Liz, wracked with guilt over Susan's fate; their mother, who refuses to acknowledge her wayward daughter's existence; and alcoholic high school teacher Paul Martin, who once had an affair with Susan. Susan's fall to her death in the final, rain-soaked days of winter triggers a series of events that bring the buried secrets of the town to terrifying reality—people and animals rise from the dead, and a spirit of homicidal rage grips the living. Fighting to survive, Langan's characters come brilliantly to life, their inner conflicts rendered in sharp but exhausting detail at once expansive and constricting, slowing the narrative to a crawl just before it whips into frenzied, graphic violence. This is horror on a big scale, akin to the more ambitious work of Stephen King, and though Langan's enormous imagination can slow her narrative, this effective debut promises great things to come. (Oct.)
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“it’s the only horror story I’ve read recently that finds adequate metaphors for the self-destructive properties of anger.” (New York Times Book Review)

“[A] distinct and juicy flavor all its own. THE KEEPER begins what should be a very fruitful career.” (Peter Straub, New York Times bestselling author of IN THE NIGHT ROOM)

“A smart, brand-new take on the haunted house story…hard to believe this is a first novel.” (Jack Ketchum, author of OFFSPRING)

“[A] brilliant debut, heralding the arrival of a major talent.” (Tim Lebbon, author of DUSK and BERSERK)

“THE KEEPER kept me up, late into the night...I’m hoping for a whole shelf of novels by Langan.” (Kelly Link, author of MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS)

“A dark and bracingly bleak tale of supernatural terror.” (Ramsey Campbell, author of SECRET STORY)

“Deft and disturbing... twists expectations into surreal surprises... hypnotic reading - an assured and impressive debut.” (Douglas E. Winter)

“An astonishing first novel...chilling, haunting, and so smartly written that the pages fly by like the wind.” (Ray Garton, author of THE LOVELIEST DEAD)

“Akin to the more ambitious work of Stephen King...this effective debut promises great things to come.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Echoes of Stephen King resound...the first fruits of a most promising career.” (Washington Times)

“recalls Edgar Allan Poe” (Washington Times)

“it’s hard to put down...” (Washington Times)

“Langan has a sharp eye for the small vivid details of American life, and her characters are utterly believable. Reminiscent of early Stephen King, this is not for the squeemish” (London Times)

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006087290X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060872908
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah grew on Long Island and went to college in Maine. She studied both fiction writing and environmental toxicology and now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and floppy eared rabbit. It's a busy household and sadly, the plants are often fatally thirsty.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Maria Alexander on December 1, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was very excited to read Langan's book, because female horror writers are special for a lot of reasons. The first chapter absolutely knocked it out of the park. She is great at building dread, and the idea of a town haunted by a woman is very original. While I prefer prose that's something akin to prose poetry, Langan's book has strong, solid writing that worked well for this bleak, frightening story.

The only problem was that about 3/4 into the book everything ground to a halt for me. As realistic as they were, the characters never felt very likable. So, when Very Bad Things started happening to them, I lost interest in the story. I suspect it was because the characters were already dead in many ways and therefore it felt over the top. I soldiered on because a friend of Langan's had loved the book so much that I wanted to give it a fair read. Ultimately I liked the ending and was glad I got there, but that was a difficult bridge to cross.

That said, I suspect future books by Langan will shine even more brightly. I'll definitely be staying tuned!
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on September 27, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I typically read over two-hundred novels a year, and THE KEEPER is one of the best written debuts I've read in 2006. This is a top-shelf effort.

The quality of the writing in this novel is simply superb. It's hard to believe that Langan is a first-time novelist. Her prose is both vivid and compelling. Langan has a real gift for characterization and all of the people in this book really came alive for me. In the end, I made an emotional investment in the story and characters of THE KEEPER, which is something that rarely happens with most books I read.

The high quality of Langan's writing compensates for the somewhat creaky plot. This is a relatively slow-paced novel, with a great deal of prose devoted to the inner conflicts of multiple characters. If you're looking for fast moving suspense story, you will probably be disappointed with this novel. There isn't a great deal of action in this novel until the final few scenes.

THE KEEPER is essentially a well crafted literary novel with supernatural overtones. It is more of a spooky read than a thrilling one. You either like this type of novel or you don't. I enjoyed it throughly, and I eagerly look foward to Langan's future books. If she learns to tighten her plotting a bit, she could become the next Peter Straub in my opinion.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on September 17, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd actually more or less given up on horror novels as a genre. While there are a few contemporary horror writers that I enjoy, I have given up the steady diet of supermarket horror that I read as a teenager. However, I made an exception in this case and actually ordered the Langan book from Amazon. This is largely because a great many of those "few contemporary horror writers" who I still read published hugely glowing blurbs about The Keeper. Peter Straub credited her with combining a "genuinely poetic sensibility" and a "taste for horror's most bravura excesses". Ramsey Campbell praised the quality of the prose. With chops like these, it almost seemed as though I had to love the book.

Probably unsurprisingly, I didn't love it. I didn't hate it either. Honestly, if I *had* just picked it up at the supermarket somewhere in upstate NY then I probably would have actually been quite pleasantly surprised. Langan isn't at all a bad writer, and seems to have a dab hand at the kind of real little details that generally work very well in horror and supernatural fiction. Liz was often very likable, and I could easily visualize her in her surroundings.

The problem was that even though she got the verisimilitude right, Langan somehow didn't succeed in making me care about the characters. I suspect that she tried to draw the story too widely. I needed to care about the town as much as I cared about the main characters. And that never came together. She might have done better to make it a claustrophobic family story. I suspect that by narrowing the focus, Susan may have been more genuinely frightening. The wider scope on the whole town meant that Langan resorted to pretty typical horror tricks-- vicious dogs, giant spiders, yadda yadda.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Morgan on September 8, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this book at a grocery story on a whim, not really knowing what to expect. I read praise by Peter Straub at the top of the cover and thought "Well, let's try it."

I was blown away! This novel is written very well and includes creepy and scary stuff that might make your sleep a little restless.

I loved it! Langan is a wonderful writer. Poetic,descriptive without being too Faulknerian, she is awesome.

I cannot wait for a follow-up.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By S. Harris on October 14, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Back in Horror's heyday, the masters (Straub, King, et al.) would crank out 500 to 800 page apocalyptic tomes, usually set in some small town filled with secrets, that never seemed to end. At the end of these novels, everything would blow up. I was never a huge fan, not because I didn't like horror (I love it), but because for me, horror works best with a tighter, smaller focus, with an emphasis on atmosphere (I'm a Ramsey Campbell fan). Give me dread over explosions any day. Langan's Keeper is from the "tome" era. To its credit, at 380 pages, it is shorter, but around page 260 or so, I was horrified that I had a hundred pages more to go. A character I couldn't stand wasn't dead yet (squeeze harder Susan!), a giant spider had showed up out of nowhere, and it just kept raining. (Actually, I liked the steady use of rain as a mood establishing device. For some reason I was reminded of Stewart O'nan's masterpiece The Night Country. Must be that Jamie Lee Curtis time of year.) Another problem for me was that I never bought into the core cause of the horror, so to some extent, from early on, I felt I was on a long march.

On the other hand, Langan can write. She creates believable characters (I really liked Liz), though sometimes there were conversations that just went on and on without really adding momentum to the story. Langan also has, like King, a good eye for things contemporary. The teens in the Keeper are modern day versions of King's 70s kids. The music, the clothes, the talk, all seemed right to me. But hey, it's a first novel, so ignore the novel's glowing heavy weight blurbs and take it for what it is. The Keeper does have some effective moments, and to my mind is much closer to real horror than another heavily touted new writer, Cherie Priest.
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