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House of Reckoning

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Thursday, February 18, 2010

We are going to be honest here (stop laughing). We try to read a lot of Horror, but there is a lot of it that we miss. Mostly on purpose. We managed to mostly avoid John Saul, even though he seems to be one of the huge names in the Horror genre. Why did we avoid him? All his books, from the outside, look the same (this is foreshadowing of event to come late in this review). It’s just a picture of a house under a different color tone. John Saul’s latest novel, HOUSE OF RECKONING, follows this theme by using a house with a green tint. Creepy. Yes, that was sarcasm.

HOUSE OF RECKONING begins by showing two different teens in their respective broken-homes. Sarah Crane just lost her mother. Her father, Ed, has become a drunk, and while driving home from a bar he hits Sarah with his car, shattering her hip. Nick Dunnigan hears voices in his head and sees violent visions. Predictably, his father resents him for it. These two teens end up meeting in the town where Sarah is sent as a foster child when her father is put in prison. Sarah’s foster family, again predictably, treat her like a slave. Nick and Sarah and up befriending a teacher, Bettina Philips who has a mysterious past, and who everyone in town calls a witch. Sarah and Nick then discover they can do mysterious things…almost like magic.

It sounds like an OK setup on the surface. Here’s the problem. The only other John Saul book we have read is BLACK CREEK CROSSING. It is a book about two different kids who come from broken homes. They meet at school after the girl moves into town. They are picked on at school. Then they can mysteriously do things…like magic. Seriously? Let us repeat that. SERIOUSLY? It is nearly the same plot. Almost exactly. We both knew, within ten pages (TEN PAGES!) how the book was going to end. So, not only do his covers look the same, but his stories follow the same pattern? How terrible is that? Is Saul running out of ideas? This guy is supposed to be one of the main players in the Horror genre, but it seems to us that he only writes one story. Like a Harlequin Romance novel. Just change the names and location. No one will notice right?

Yeah. We are angry. Because, you know, we get paid to notice these things. OK, we don’t get paid. But we do notice this stuff.

It’s not that Saul is a poor writer. He isn’t. He is good at making the strange and paranormal very visual and accessible. And this story was fine when we read it in BLACK CREEK CROSSING. Second helpings are good with pizza, steak, and Mexican food (crap, now we are hungry…). Not novels. The other problem Saul has is his inability to make characters that are anything but completely good, or completely bad. This is extremely evident with nearly all of the characters in HOUSE OF RECKONING. Sarah’s foster family, while spouting religion, are completely bad. Nick’s (Nick in the story, not EBR’s Nick) dad is completely bad. Everyone at school is completely bad. It just gets old. Luckily, the novel is short. 3 hours, and it is a done deal.

Look, had we not already read BLACK CREEK CROSSING, this novel would have been OK. However, since we know HOUSE OF RECKONING is exactly-the-freaking-same as at least one other John Saul novel, we hate it. Pisses us off. A lot.

If you must read this novel, do it through your local library. Don’t pay money for it.

Recommended Age: 15 and up. The reality is that John Saul is almost writing YA novels. Maybe he should do that and leave the Horror genre to people who won’t repeat the same story over and over.
Language: Just a bit. Nothing major.
Violence: Some. Again, nothing major.
Sex: A few references. A borderline graphic flashback.


  1. Anonymous Said,

    I have never read any Saul novel and that plot still feels like ive read it before.Thats the main reason i stay away from Horror/Thriller genre nowdays.

    Posted on February 20, 2010 at 7:16 AM

  2. Kathy Said,

    I love John Saul and have had for many years and have read most of his books. It's true some of the stories are similar, but so what, most writers us the same technique. If you think about there are really just so many story plots out there and writers just tweak the ones they like or work best for them.If you like horror and suspense give him a try.

    Posted on March 8, 2010 at 9:40 AM

  3. foxyshadis Said,

    Saul is basically the V.C. Andrews of Horror, recycling not just trite characters and setups but whole plots, resolution at all. I was sucked into reading some at the behest of others, never again, I'd rather waste my time on trash like Anita Blake if I had to pick some worthless reading.

    Enjoying the reviews. :)

    Posted on September 15, 2011 at 5:20 PM


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