A Dark Matter
Doubleday, Feb 9 2010, $26.95
Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include Lee Harwell, his tomboy girlfriend, Lee “Eel” Truax, Howard “Hootie” Bly, Jason “Boats” Boatman, and Donald “Dilly” Olson to attend a night ritual. Before the sun rises, Hayward is dead and Bright vanished.
Over the years each has coped differently to that horrid night that changed all of them. Milstrap has avoided responsibility preferring Peter Pan to adulthood. The Lees married, but Eel has since lost her sight. Bly was taken to a mental institution on that horrific night and remains there while citing Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as his only form of speech. Bright came out of whatever hole she had hidden inside of to marry into power. Boatsman went from shoplifter extraordinaire to shoplifting crime prevention extraordinaire. Filly Olson has never moved on. All will converge to relive what each chose to psychologically forget about that deadly night when novelist Harwell writes a nonfiction account of the horror that still impacts all of those who attended Mallon’s malevolent ritual.
This is a convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller as Peter Straub keeps the audience guessing whether what happened was a group psychological hysteria or something evil from beyond. All of the survivors realize they do not have total recall of what occurred in spite of the college student’s death. Although at times difficult to fathom what truly happened as murky memories make for a murky story line, fans who prefer something different will want to know what the students faced on the night that changed each of them.