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3 February 2016

Black House (The Talisman 2)
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Ballantine Books
Publication Date
September 2003

horror, detective

Description from Amazon

Black House is the second collaboration by Stephen King and Peter Straub, two of the most important writers in genre fiction, and the expectations of their first team-up were considerable. But despite its impressive sales, many were disappointed by The Talisman. Rather than a truly chilling epic, what we got was a rather derivative and by-the-numbers fantasy saga. So fans were reluctant to be too hopeful about their second collaboration... but we needn't have worried. Black House is much more like it, although even here King and Straub have not quite delivered the ultimate horror marathon--this is a psycho-thriller in the vein of Thomas Harris, but none the worse for that. And there are supernatural elements. This is the tale of a small American town held in the grip of evil. Three children have vanished, abducted by a monster called The Fisherman (after a legendary murderer) with a craving for children's flesh. Ex-detective Jack Sawyer, dealing with his own personal problems (in which he is tormented by visions of another world), is keen to stay away from the horrors of this case, recognising how bad involvement will be for him. But--guess what?--Sawyer is soon supping full on the horrors, and the reader is in for an exhilarating (and highly disturbing) experience. Jack is a powerfully realised protagonist, and his journey into the dark world of The Fisherman is genuinely unsettling. Although more of King's fingerprints are on this one than Straub's (notably the conflicted hero, struggling with his own demons), the co-authors' individual styles merge indivisibly in this highly impressive chiller. --Barry Forshaw

My thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As I previously mentioned in my review on The Talisman Book 1 , I had trouble getting into and even getting through Book 1, as I just did not seem to understand this other world, The Territories and the story was too removed for my liking from 'our world'. However, in Book 2, the story mostly plays out in our world, with links to the other world, The Territories. And the link is not immediately obvious. Jack, our hero, obviously has blocked out his memories of the Territories, but will have to go back to not only save the missing children, but also to save the world from wider evil. 

The characters are again, beautifully drawn and unlike in the first book, there are quite a few characters whom Jack encounters this time and who are envolved, and all of them are from our world. In typical King fashion, the story is based around small-town America and its citizens. My favourite character has to be the Biker (who's name escapes me at the moment).

The book is again co-written King and Straub. I have not read any of Straub's other work, but the reading flows without problem and I did not notice two different styles of writers - if there are, they are certainly nicely merged here. 

In resume, if you are a King fan and maybe didn't get on with Book 1, give this a try. I have to say though that while you can read Book 2 without reading Book 1, I think it helps you to understand and get the 'little hints' early on in the book, and without reading Book 1 first you may struggle to understand the links.