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A Dark Matter

by Peter Straub

Library Journal Forty years after a horrific event experienced by a group of high school seniors, the now middle-aged participants individually review what happened. In 1960, under the spell of a charismatic, slightly older man who claimed special powers, the teens had been led to share what may have been a delusion or an actual, spectacular murder. The author's well-recognized skill in building suspense and subtly revealing aspects of character strengthens this complex plot. The basic question-is evil innately human, or is it something external?-is appropriately and perhaps disturbingly left for the reader's speculation. While hints of the presence of supernatural beings are dropped frequently, there are repeated but only brief mentions of bloody slaughter rather than the extensive juicy depictions that TV and videogame addicts might expect. VERDICT Bram Stoker Award winner Straub's (Ghost Story; Lost Boy; Lost Girl) latest offering in new wave horror will thrill his many fans and attract new readers. A very good choice for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/09.]-Jonathan Pearce, California State Univ. at Stanislaus, Stockton (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Student demos and cop riots weren't the only spectacular events in Madison, Wisconsin, back in 1966. A footloose occultist guru blew into town and gathered a following of four high-school seniors and two UW frat boys, eventually to join him and his blonde-stunner girlfriend in a ritual in a disused field belonging to the ag school. The ceremony succeeded, but killed one collegian, made the other disappear, and drastically altered each of the high-schoolers' lives. Four decades later, novelist Lee Harwell, whose girlfriend and eventual wife was one of the four high-schoolers, and who might have been in the field that day but for his profound skepticism of the guru, is jogged by a most un-Proustian memory-trigger into finding out from each of his old pals just what happened and writing it up. Hence, this book is rich with well-realized characters and incidents, and as dazzling a literary performance as anything Straub has ever written. Particularly impressive this time is the way Straub alters the texture of the prose as Harwell's research progresses from initial murk through successively clearer atmospheres and brighter tones until, just before the last eyewitness testimony, his wife's, it's almost too shiny and slick. Then, with her account, which partially remystifies things, the book ends in the normal, reassuring light of day. Quite a performance.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In this tour de force from bestseller Straub (In the Night Room), four high school friends in 1966 Madison, Wis.-Hootie Bly, Dilly Olson, Jason Boatman, and Lee Truax-fall under the spell of charismatic "wandering guru" Spencer Mallon. During an occult ceremony in which Mallon attempts to break through to a higher reality, something goes horribly awry leaving one participant dead. Decades later, Lee's writer husband interviews the quartet to find out what happened. In Roshomon-like fashion, each relates a slightly different account of the trauma they experienced. Straub masterfully shows how the disappointments, downturns, and failed promise of the four friends' lives may have stemmed from this youthful experience, and suggests, by extension, that the malignant evil they helped unleash into the world has tainted all hope ever since. Brilliant in its orchestration and provocative in its speculations, this novel ranks as one of the finest tales of modern horror. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved