Book Review: In the Dark by Richard Laymon

Title: In the Dark

Author: Richard Laymon

Publisher: Headline

Publication Date: November 10th 1994

Genres: Horror

Shelves: Female-fronted

Although it takes a while to find its darkness – 150 pages to become violent, 200 pages to become truly unsettling, and 300 pages to become brutally sexualIn the Dark is another solid piece of horror pulp from the master, Richard Laymon.

Jane Kerry is a small-town librarian who gets drawn into a strange game by someone calling himself MOG, the Master of Games. It all begins with an envelope containing $50 and a clue to the next envelope. It seems harmless, but there’s still a creepiness to it all, with natural fears over who MOG is and what he ultimately wants. As the game goes on, the clues get tougher, the money gets bigger, and what she’s asked to do gets worse.

It is Jane who makes the story so compelling, an ordinary woman who is both tragic and heroic at the same time. She finds herself racing down a slippery slope of morality and purpose, willing to do things she would have otherwise found abhorrent, but greed is only half of her motivation. The other half is part curiosity, needing to know what’s next, and part female empowerment, finding new strength and self-confidence in the game.

Sometimes Laymon assaults the senses from the first page, and sometimes he makes us wait for it. This is one of those slow-burn stories that takes its time being creepy and mysterious (I loved the negligee and the coffin), settling for being unsettling instead of horrific . . . but once it escalates things in the brutal house of horrors (those women were batshit crazy!), it’s a roller coaster ride downhill to the climax . . . and that’s where Laymon excels.

Nobody nails a climax like he does, going all out with the violence, the drama, and the tension, keeping us on edge for the last 30 pages, with a series of big twists that are just perfect.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

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