"The Nightmare Room" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Harmful Monkey Press
Written by Chris Sorensen
2018, 276 pages, Fiction
Released on 25th January, 2018
The Nightmare Room opens with a small boy being sent to the basement for wetting himself by his unsympathetic father. This is a particularly unpleasant punishment, as something nasty also lurks in the chilly basement of this decent haunted house story. Although the novel flips periodically back to this childhood episode, most of the plot is constructed around Peter Larsen and his wife Hannah, the couple returning to the small midwestern town of his childhood to support Peter’s ailing father. Initially they think they are inheriting the family house and intend to live in it whilst Peter’s father is in a local care home. However, they are soon shocked to find out they must sell the house to pay for the father’s medical fees. Weirdly though, soon they discover he has a second property they knew nothing about, which is empty and available for them to move into. This clapped out old country house is the setting for most of the novel.
The couple move into the house quickly after a short stay in a local hotel. Peter’s initial impressions are not favourable, his wife is easier to please, and soon we find ourselves in familiar haunted house territory. As things develop, the house messes with Peter’s psyche more so than his wife, who gets a job working in a local bar. Peter records audio-books and sets up his studio in the basement where the feelings of uneasiness are strongest, he starts to hallucinate and periodically loses touch with reality and has regular unsettling episodes. Even though the couple have a strong relationship, they do struggle, and are recovering from a family tragedy, which is explored as the novel develops.
I do not want to be unnecessarily harsh on Chris Sorensen’s The Nightmare Room, as it is a perfectly serviceable horror novel, but its weakness lies in the fact that there is not anything new here. Everything about the plot, the scares, and the basement is very familiar; maybe I read too much of this stuff. The first half of the novel sets the scene and the dynamics of the married couple and is convincing enough, but when the supernatural elements are ratcheted up in the second half, I found it all to be somewhat jaded and my attention began to fade. The frequent flashbacks to the child in the basement are telegraphed, and there is absolutely no surprise when the shroud on this part of the story is lifted.
Don’t get me wrong, the novel has plenty of decent sequences: Peter hearing voices through his audio-equipment is terrific; the pain behind the couple’s loss is convincingly done; the supernatural entity reveal near the end is cool; and the character Ellen Marx is very entertaining, a so-called expert in hauntings who pops up in the second half. But when sentences such as “the house was stirring” are rolled out, I had déjà vu from a thousand other novels.
After the conclusion of the novel we are told to watch out for The Hungry Ones: The Messy Man Series book 2, I do not think there is enough on offer here to merit a sequel. It is a haunted house yarn, end of story, there is really no need to spin it further. I would also question whether there will be any real demand for it.