2 out of 4 stars
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Behind the Staircase by Christopher Eagan is a collection of four short stories. They are all suspenseful thrillers with a supernatural element.
The book starts with School Days Once Again. It is the story of several young boys that seem to be acting strangely. They all live in the same apartment building. One parent starts to notice that her son isn’t acting like a normal young boy. She starts to snoop into his life and finds some unexplained activity on his iPad, including a destructive plan scheduled for Halloween night. She soon gets the other parents involved and eventually gets help from the church. Will they stop the kids in time?
The second story is Crescent Hills. This one starts out with a father promising to build a dollhouse for his daughter. Once it’s built, the family mysteriously goes missing. The only thing left behind is a dollhouse that is an exact replica of the home. It is filled with furnishings that match what the family had before they “left.” We follow the dollhouse to several other families. Each family goes missing in turn. The dollhouse transforms, inside and out, to match its new location. What’s happening to all these people?
The next story is Soul Painter. We follow two members of the CIA. After installing some new equipment, they’re able to pick out never-before-seen details from video recordings of past events, including the assassination of JFK. They’re surprised to find a painter at several different catastrophes. Their investigation leads them to a Native American reservation where they take peyote in a tepee in hopes of a revelation about the mysterious painter. The peyote works and they head on their way to a castle. Will they find the painter? Can they stop him?
The final story is I Got Your Number. It’s the story of a stockbroker down on his luck and going through a divorce. He’s forced to go on vacation. While away, he dreams of a beautiful place and a beautiful woman named Elizabeth. He tries to give her his phone number but wakes up before he has the chance. While driving around on his vacation, he recognized the place he was with the woman. A stray bit of paper flies to him on the wind, and he realizes it’s the paper he had started writing his phone number on. He dreams of her again and again, but the park he’s dreaming of is starting to disappear. Will he be able to give her his number, so they can meet in real life?
I found the ideas behind these stories intriguing since I love the supernatural. They’re all unique concepts. I especially liked the idea of the dollhouse. The synopsis of each story had me wondering the cause of each situation. Will we learn where the boys come from? Will we find out why the dollhouse is taking people? Is there a way to stop the Soul Painter? What’s so special about the park? The problem is, most of these questions weren’t answered throughout the stories. In the beginning of Crescent Hills, we see why and how the dollhouse was originally built. There seems no reason for it to become supernatural. I thought we would get some answers when it was brought into the crime lab by a cop during one of the investigations. Even then, we didn’t learn anything new. Normally, I have no problem with unanswered questions in a supernatural suspense story, but there was so much information in these stories, it was annoying not to get any actual answers.
My largest problem with these ”short stories” was how unnecessarily long they were. When reading a short story, you expect all characters and situations to be significant. These stories contained so much extra information it was annoying to sift through. For example, after the dollhouse claimed its first family, we get introduced to a new set of characters. One could argue that we needed these characters to establish the pattern, but we learned so much about them just so they could also disappear. We follow the dollhouse’s progression in great detail, meeting new characters along the way. It was tedious to read about all these people that weren’t actually important to the storyline. Yes, they found the dollhouse. Yes, they disappeared. Did we really have to read about what they had for dinner when it happened? The author was very creative in coming up with all of these scenarios, but I just found myself bored reading through them all.
Unfortunately, this work was not edited very well. Mistakes in spelling and grammar litter this entire piece. They become more frequent the farther in you read. The author’s biography talks about how ideas “were coming out in thought quicker then he could type them out.” While I was glad to hear that the words were flowing so easily for him, I wish he would have spent some time polishing up his work afterward. Punctuation was one of the largest problems. There were quote marks in strange places, periods and commas directly next to each other, and a few mix-ups with periods and question marks. All the stories were written in the present-tense, but they frequently slipped into the past-tense. I often had to stop to reread a section because of this.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I allowed a point for the author’s creative ideas. I took away points for editing and because I found myself so bored reading through the middle of these stories. Those interested in supernatural suspense and thrillers would enjoy this collection most. I wouldn’t read these to young children as a bedtime story, but there wasn’t anything exceptionally graphic in any of the stories. I think these stories would be more enjoyable if they were trimmed and edited.
Behind the Staircase
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