Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Darkhouse: A Rainy Summertime Read

Author Karina Halle

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

Review:  I started this book on a chilly Pacific Northwest afternoon and read until 3 am.  I didn't anticipate getting hooked, but the pacing created an irresistible page-turner that had me reading until my eyes ached.  Who needs sleep?  Sleep is over-rated!  Darkhouse is seductively entertaining and I'm convinced that it has some secret ingredient (like the sauce on a Big Mac or the coffee beans at Starbucks) that makes it immediately addictive.  Red Fox is coming out soon and I simply can't wait (okay, maybe I'm begging a little) for the author to send me an advanced copy.  What makes it so good?  Perry is a reliable character: flawed, insecure, impulsive, but despite her own roadblocks she has a determination that the audience can clearly see even if she does not (yet).  It is her self-awareness that makes the character appealing, trustworthy and honest.  Her vulnerability provides sympathy without demanding pity.  Dex is similar and it is not surprising that the Clown Lady insinuates Perry and Dex are cut from the same cloth.  Their contradictions show strength of character and reveals a great deal about the individuals.  For example, Dex admits he lies and by doing so disproves he's a liar because he confesses to the deceit.  A true liar would never willingly reveal this deprecating detail.
The paranormal elements and spook factor are unique and provide just enough to let the imagination create the setting without coming across as silly, immature or easy to dismissed.  The creepiness I experienced was real and I loved the lighthouse scenes.  The splattering mentions of pop culture references were excellent and worked to create a mental map of the characters perception and thinking.  I knew where they were coming from, what images came to mind during their experiences, and how they related to the world unfolding in front of them. 

Frankly, I'm surprised by the lower ratings received at places such as Goodreads because this contemporary humorous spook fest might read fast-paced and easy, which it does, but the voice is not absent of substance.  The language doesn't try too hard to convince intelligence and by doing so, is smartly composed to do what a story should, entertain.  Don't get me wrong, there is meaning here, but the fact that the story isn't trying so hard to show (or prove it) makes it that much more clever.  Darkhouse is an example of a confident and assured author's 'voice.'  The writer connects with the characters, deeply understanding and channeling them onto the page.  By the end I was convinced Perry was writing this story.  I have no doubt that Perry and Dex are real--and they live through author Karina Halle.
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  1. What a great review! I tend to take some reviews with a grain of salt; I think that you have to read each genre with an eye towards that genre only. Comparing a horror story, for example, to literary fiction .. well, it's just wrong. Read each book based on it's own merits, and you can stop being judgmental enough to be entertained (which, after all, is one of the main purposes of reading).