The Haunted is my first novel by Bentley Little. Stephen King describes him as ‘the horror poet laureate,’ and The Haunted was a nominee for a Bram Stroker award. Because of this, I expected more. It was a peculiar mixture of ghost and possession horror tropes with some psychosomatic effects (anal sex and self-harm) and entirely predictable.
It was a stretch to accept the husband’s reasons for staying in the house and accepting his death when the rest of the family had high-tailed it to the in-laws. The death of the father-in-law and husband didn’t have an emotional impact, making the ending anti-climactic.
The story is told from multiple perspectives from the Perry family of husband and wife and two children. The last chapter is told from the son’s perspective when I felt the wife needed to convey the loss and sadness. I think that may have deprived the emotional punch it needed for the horror to matter.
Paranormal or supernatural horror is an expansive sub-genre of horror. I like a good ghost story because of the haunting and demonic possession phenomenon. While teaching English in a secondary school, I looked forward to re-reading Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. For me, it’s a memorable read because of a series of mysterious sounds. The rocking chair in the nursery and the eerie sound of a pony and trap, in particular.
Sadly, The Haunted by Bentley Little isn’t a memorable read, but with his writing and reputation, he deserves a second chance.
Bram Stoker Awards