CR3 #57: Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The first time I read this book, I didn’t like it very much. It seemed scattered, bringing in characters that seemed like they should be familiar but weren’t, and referencing things that were treated like common knowledge but weren’t mentioned fully in the course of the story. The whole thing felt like a mess. I thought perhaps the trouble was the collaboration between the two authors–perhaps they hadn’t been able to mesh their ideas and styles together as easily as originally intended?

It wasn’t until later that I realized this book is actually a sequel. The first book the two authors wrote together is called The Talisman, and that tells the whole story of young Jack Sawyer and his trip over into “The Territories” to find the talisman and save his mother. After I read that book, Black House made a LOT more sense. And after reading the Dark Tower series, it makes even more, since the world of The Territories seems to be inextricably linked to that of Mid-World. There’s also some carry-over from Hearts in Atlantis as well. Basically, this is NOT a book to read on its own–it is okay by itself, but loses a lot if the reader is unable to pick up all the connections.

Jack Sawyer is now an adult, and has left his job as a hotshot Hollywood homicide detective to retire to the Wisconsin countryside, taking up residence just outside the town of French Landing. He isn’t sure why he chose this place, but has an inexplicable feeling that something has called him. Unfortunately, not long after he arrives a serial killer dubbed “The Fisherman” begins to kidnap and kill–and dine on–children from around French Landing. The police are stumped, and although Jack doesn’t want to get involved (he’s retired, after all!) it seems the more he tries to avoid being pulled in, the more the universe seems to push. Before long, another child is kidnapped, and Jack discovers that this all ties back to the adventure he had as a child in The Territories. It’s up to him (and some new friends he’s made along the way) to solve the case, save the child, and perhaps even save the world as we know it.

This is a great story. I very much enjoyed the plot, which moved along at a good clip–only occasionally getting bogged down in King’s trademark descriptions. All the characters were interesting and well-drawn, even the smaller bit players. In particular, blind DJ Henry Leyden and biker Beezer St. Pierre were fun and interesting to follow. The dialogue was excellent, and it was often very funny. Not to mention it had some very spooky, very disturbing parts for the horror fans. Also–probably due to Peter Straub’s influence–the ending wasn’t stupid. It all actually made sense and worked out properly.

On the whole I’d definitely recommend this, but ONLY after reading the Talisman (and preferably after reading at least the first five Dark Tower books as well).


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