There are places that hold in the traces of evil, houses that become legendary for the mysteries and secrets within their walls. Harrow is one such house. Psychic manifestations, poltergeist activity, hallucinations, and other residue of terror have all been documented in Harrow. It has been called Nightmare House. It is a nest for the restless spirits of the dead. When Ethan Gravesend arrives to inherit Nightmare House, he does not suspect the horror that awaits him -- the nightmare of the woman trapped within the walls of the house, or the endless crying of an unseen child.
An uncharacteristic period ghost story brings the Harrow haunted house trilogy to an apprehensive conclusion or beginning. In Mischief (2000) and The Infinite (2001), Clegg dropped portentous hints of past misdeeds and occult experiments that amplified the evil influence of Harrow, a sprawling Hudson River estate turned into a boys' prep school. The events of this novel, a prequel to the previous two books, don't so much explain as anticipate Harrow's later ghostly manifestations. In 1926, Ethan Gravesend inherits the estate from his eccentric paternal grandfather, who built the mansion on supposedly cursed land. Almost immediately, he witnesses eerie apparitions that emanate from Harrow's shadowy halls and gloomy grounds. In the company of housekeeper and love interest Maggie Barrow, Ethan stumbles upon a boarded-up room and a proverbial skeleton in the family closet that serves as lodestone for the formidable supernatural forces that pulse through the dwelling. Clegg milks each of the gothic set pieces premature burial, mesmerism, exorcism, as well as the inevitable specters for maximum spooky effect, but ultimately depends on a lengthy digression by the well-informed local constable to put them all together for Ethan's benefit. While he offers no ideas here that haven't already been explored by the weird fiction masters cited in his acknowledgments, Clegg's modern sensibility brings out the luster in some of the genre's well-used furniture and shows that tales in the classic horror tradition can still entertain. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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June 21, 2012
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