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BOOK REVIEW: The Killing Room by John Manning

July 15, 2010

This review is for The Killing Room by John Manning. I bought the Kindle version, as the title and premise sounded very interesting and it was on sale at the time.

I enjoyed this book, up until about 3/4 of the way through. The last quarter of the book really frustrated me. I felt the author took cheap and easy plot turns, bringing in paranormal elements that were not necessary although recently popular (i.e., zombies).

The characters were fairly well-developed, and I appreciated the way their backstory was woven into the plotline. There was not too much information dump, but when it was given in large chunks it worked as part of the storyline.

I believe the author’s greatest gift is in building suspense and giving an edge of psychological suspense – at times I wondered, is this real or is it the character’s imagination?  There were a couple of times near the start of the book that I looked over my shoulder when reading it at night. That, to me, is significant in the telling of a good ghost story. When overdone, you are laughing at the attempt and when underdone you are just not scared. This author managed to find the perfect balance, without going into scaring you so much you stop reading! Excellent storytelling.

If this had continued, I would have rated this book higher than three stars. However, the main characters took too long to realize the impact of the Young family on the ghost. There was also some inconsistencies in characterization. For example, the old uncle consistently withheld information – but although the main characters realized this, they never questioned (until the end) why he would do this. Also, with a background from the FBI, it seems our heroine would have cast an early suspicion on the Young family also being involved – and this should have grown with the increasing realization the family was keeping secrets. I was frustrated, and it seemed this was only serving as a plot device – I don’t mind plot devices, but they must stay consistent with characterization already established.

Finally – the turning of David into a zombie at the end. There was no reason for him to return, and again I felt frustrated this was only a plot device. Once they realized he was a zombie, I felt it was almost a satire. However, there was no satire up to this point – so again I was left frustrated.

The strong beginning of this book, and the ability of the author to tell a good ghost story, kept this book at a solid three stars. It would have been five stars, if the above issues were resolved to this reader’s satisfaction.

My review: Save your money for the paperback, and minus the zombie, hope for a movie version.

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