Madeleine Roux’s Asylum had everything going for it, at first glance. The design and marketing of the book is similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in that it uses old photos like a crutch to set the tone and creepiness factor. This is a job for the author, says me shaking my fist. Image-heavy fiction is a red flag to me.
You can almost picture the opening pages; they play out as many horror movies do. Dan is in a cab riding down a graveled road, tired from the long trip, but so looking forward to the next five weeks. They pull up to New Hampshire College’s Brookline dormitory, a converted asylum. He’s there as a college prep student, so why does he suddenly feel the angst of a patient? -END SCENE-
Dan makes fast friends with Artsy Abby and her somewhat withdrawn friend Jordan. They’re as curious and willing to explore the dorm’s dark history as he is. And guess what? There’s a whole side of the dorm that’s untouched from its psycho doctor days, a side that’s practically wide open for trespassing. Mind the old blood and coincidentally relevant photograph of a certain former patient.
By the images spread throughout, I kept waiting for a ghost story or something horror-like to happen. Here’s another one that’s more of a lite mystery with supernatural decor, and a relatively straight forward plot. The thing is, the mystery of what or who is causing gruesome trouble and sending Dan mysterious notes is obvious. The only thing that kept me reading was the belief that because the book had such a high production, it would get better. It does pick up a bit towards the end, but maybe that was me just anxious to be done with it.
I am not having much luck finding great horror books this year. I checked out Asylum from the library thinking, Yay. Finally a creepy novel to confront the terrifying history people with a mental illness were treated, abused and experimented on not so long ago. Miss Peregrine’s wasn’t a book I loved, but the author at least allowed his source material to breathe and guide much of the plot. Asylum’s silly whodunit plotting flattened any drama inherent in the story’s setting.
As intriguing as the converted asylum is, there’s no new information here. If you’ve watched any ghost hunting shows or read the Weird New Jersey magazines, you’e as familiar with the history of such places as the author seemed to be. After the first few pages, I never got back into the story because of the writing. The dialogue is laughably bad, which is especially annoying in a such a visually appealing book.
My lazy quest for good horror books continues. Perhaps a curse is upon me!