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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sins of Rachel Ellis (Philip Caveney)


I find horror novels that start out gently and proceed to increase the roughness and intesity as the story goes along quiet satisfying company on those cold, dark nights where the flickering light of the candle causes soft shadows to dance in the corners of my room.  Helps to remind me that the dark has yet to reveal all of its secrets to me... much like the darkness inside us keeps its own secrets tightly within its grasp...

Pandora Ellis has been invited to spend the summer at her great aunt Rachel's estate while her parents take time to mend their marriage.  From the moment she steps foot inside of "Savannah," she is confronted by mysterious occurances.  Occurances that may lead her to solving the secret of Rachel's suprisingly youthful appearance... but with the price being her very soul...

Philip Caveney is a British author that started writing children's books in 2007.  Before that, however, he wrote adult thrillers- including "The Sings of Rachel Ellis."  Even in this book from 1978, you can see the sensibilities that a children's author has in their writing.

The writing style is fluid and flows nicely- setting the environment and mood pretty well.  He present us with interesting characters in the form of Pandora Ellis, Rachel Ellis, and Ewen the gardener.  I wanted to learn more about each of them, and actually cared about Pandora as the story progressed.  The only serious flaw in regards to character is that Caveney writes Pandora in such a way that you forget that she's a twelve year old girl.

The premise and plot was interesting and meshed nicely with a couple of the sub-plots.  My complaint lies with the lack of scares in the story.  You're uneasy, certainly- but you're not scared of what might happen next.  I think part of this problem comes from the sensibilities that a children's author tends to have.  He writes with a light touch- which is nice for building up the tenstion, but that light touch extends to the scenes that should horrify us.  The best example is the statutory rape scene.  For a scene that should horrify us and shock us, it's kinda brushed against gently and softened- softend to the point where Pandora's own reaction is kinda blase about it afterwards.  This light touch deprives such scenes of their punch and impact- leaving the reader wondering what the point of it was.

As much as I liked the flowing style of Caveney's writing, I was left wishing he'd been a little rougher on me in the scenes that should normally horrify and scare people.  I'm going to have to place, "The Sins of Rachel Ellis" in "The Ugly".

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