4 out of 4 stars
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Wil is a self-absorbed alcoholic writer and university writing instructor. Ellie is his long-suffering, school teacher wife. Together they are the heroes of Mask, the new horror novel by Don Boles. The story opens in Italy in 1629 during the Bubonic Plague. Masked plague doctors visit households giving families false hope of a cure for their dying loved ones. The reader is given the impression of the horrific scenes witnessed by the wearers of the medieval masks. Fast forward to present day. Most of the action occurs in Oregon and surrounds the malevolent effects of one of the masks on Wil, Ellie and their 10-year-old son Sam.
Wil and Ellie are on the verge of divorce, stemming from an instance of infidelity. While the family is on vacation Sam buys a mask, not knowing its connection to the Black Death. In the three months following the family's return from Florida Sam's behavior becomes erratic. He begins doing things he's never done before--chilling things. He wears the mask more and more, and Wil and Ellie vascillate between concern and fear as they witness the increasing power the terrifying mask has on their son.
Lovers of horror novels will enjoy reading Mask. They can appreciate Mr. Boles' masterful use of tension. Horror is not one of my usual genres, but Mask had me plowing through the book to see what would happen next. The strengths of the work are the in-depth character development and the emotional pressure between the players in the story. These elements invest the reader in the outcome. Readers offended by profanity and graphic violence may not like this book, as there are several instances of each throughout the novel.
Members of the literati may also find this book appealing. It is intriguing to read a story by a writer about a writer teaching prospective writers. While it is not a unique concept, Mr. Boles presents it in an effective way. Like Shakespeare's play within a play, Mask gives readers a close-up view of the subject matter as well as an overall view of the author's creative process.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The plot flows well, the characters are well-developed and the suspense keeps the reader riveted to the story. The novel appears to be professionally edited, as there are less than a handful of errors remaining in its 120-pages. One example is the use of "brevity" instead of "levity". A word omission and noun/verb agreement are the only other errors of note. If you are looking for an entertaining horror story and a quick read, check out Mask.
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