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Point Horror

The Fever

By Diane Hoh.

In the throes of a burning fever, Duffy wakes in the dead of night to the sounds of a struggle next to her hospital bed. Clanging metal, a terrified voice begging for mercy, then nothing, as she slides back into unconsciousness. The following day, unable to ascertain from any of the staff what might have caused the fuss, Duffy focuses on getting well. But her enquiries have already made her an enemy, and soon she is in danger of more than just a bad case of the flu. A janitorial mix-up leads to her almost falling down an elevator shaft. Later, the brake on her wheelchair is released, and she is saved at the last second from plummeting into a freezing lake. Next, she is attacked in the shower room. The hospital staff attribute Duffy’s persecutory claims to the delirium caused by her fever. But when a patient’s heart medication goes missing, and Duffy starts experiencing the symptoms of a healthy person who has been given heart medication, it becomes essential she gets someone to believe her, before she ends up four floors below, in the hospital’s morgue.

The doctors, nurses and orderlies may be sceptical, but we know someone is out to get Duffy. We’re right there alongside her during each attack and, as with any Point Horror whodunit, we’re determined to work out who the perp is. With our protagonist stuck in a hospital bed, we might expect a smaller cast of suspects than usual. But luckily, a lot of her classmates and acquaintances happen to work at the hospital. Preppy Amy, workaholic Cynthia, arrogant Smith and burly Dylan buzz about her bed, fulfilling one role or another. Contrived, yes, but it makes for a more interesting mystery – and one which keeps us guessing. Best friend, Kit, notable by his absence, adds another layer of intrigue. He’s supposedly packed his bags and headed for California, but Duffy refuses to believe he would have left without saying goodbye.

It all comes together in a perilous confrontation in the morgue. There is a surprising twist, but it falls down on two counts. Firstly, the perpetrator isn’t a character we’ve had an opportunity to develop any real interest in, and secondly, their motivation is somewhat out of left field and requires a fair bit of exposition. Still, there’s enough threat and violence throughout to ensure The Fever keeps us entertained, and the morgue-setting for the finale is a fine choice.

7/10

Fear Factor

Duffy faces one attempt on her life after another, all the while suffering from a nasty flu and enduring the incredulity of everyone around her. If she wasn’t such an ill-mannered misery-guts, I’d have a lot more sympathy for her. It is left to the finale – to the maniacal ravings of the unmasked perpetrator, and the revelation of a genuinely tragic fatality – to inject some horror into this entry. Unfortunately, the swathes of new information the chatty perp brings to the final showdown distract us from the danger, and there’s too little time to feel afraid before Duffy is (once again) tucked up safe and sound in bed.

5/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Body

By Carol Ellis.

Melanie Jacobs has just moved to Clifton, Massachusetts and she needs a summer job and some new friends. It looks like both are on the cards when she is offered work as a reader to Lisa Randolph, a girl her own age who was recently left paralysed and mute when she fell from the cliff next to her mansion. The creepy house, and its stern housekeeper – Georgia Hudson – are almost enough to put Melanie off. But she needs the cash, and she senses Lisa desperately needs the company, so she accepts. Besides, there’s the added bonus of Jeff, the estate’s sexy gardener, who’s also new in town. Melanie starts reading Jane Eyre from its midpoint, where Lisa left off before her fall. When Lisa takes to lifting her hand at certain points in the narrative, Melanie wonders whether she’s trying to use the book to signal something; a secret about the circumstances surrounding her accident, perhaps. She confides her suspicion in Lisa’s boyfriend, Garrett, and friends, Kim and Neil, but they’re sceptical. Jeff, on the other hand, believes her immediately, and seems very interested in what Lisa has to ‘say’.

But someone clearly isn’t happy about Melanie trying to communicate with Lisa. First, she’s left a series of threatening messages, warning her to back off. And then someone tries to run her over. Melanie is terrified, and no closer to working out Lisa’s secret, or how Peter – a missing backpacker who disappeared around the time of her accident – might be involved. But as she starts to piece together the clues, Melanie comes to realise that Lisa’s fall was no accident; that she is still in danger from her attacker, and that the perpetrator is quite willing to take Melanie down too, to finish the job.

The Body offers up an interesting mystery that keeps the reader guessing. Okay, so the twist is predictable, and the finale lacks tension, but it’s still fun to see the girls join forces and turn the tables on their tormentor. In fact, Melanie and Lisa’s growing friendship and affinity for each other is genuinely sweet, and makes The Body a pleasure to read – even if it is somewhat lacking in the horror stakes. And the Jane Eyre quotes, woven through the narrative as ‘clues’, are a lovely and unique touch.

8/10

Fear Factor

Whilst Melanie is subjected to some classic Point Horror pranks – threatening messages, crank phone calls – this entry offers an alternative approach to providing its scares. The horror is subtle, and takes a backseat to the mystery, but it’s still there. It’s only once you know the whole story that you can really appreciate the fear and frustration Lisa must have constantly been feeling. The problem is, by this point, the danger has been resolved; the threat neutralised. This is one entry which could really do with an epilogue – a suggestion that the danger’s not quite over yet. Carrie’s hand erupting from the soil; Michael Myers vanishing from the backyard; Jason leaping out of Crystal Lake… anything that would enable me to bestow upon this entry – for which I have a lot of affection – a higher fear factor rating than…

6/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Dead Girlfriend

By R. L. Stine.

Annie Kiernan is exploring her new home of Shocklin Falls, and ends up at the town’s namesake, a stunning waterfall plunging from a cliff which overlooks the whole area. Here, she meets Jonathan Morgan, who is Luke-Perry-gorgeous and shares her passion for bike riding. He offers to show her around town and introduce her to his friends; so far, so great. But Annie quickly discovers Jonathan’s moody side. Laughing and joking with buffoonish best friend Caleb one minute; angry, dark and introverted the next – especially when his friend Ruby is around. And then Dawn, Caleb’s long-suffering girlfriend, tells her about Louisa – the former love of Jonathan’s life, who supposedly committed suicide at the falls, a few months earlier. This explains Jonathan’s moodiness, but not the sudden, targeted abuse of which Annie finds herself the victim. Her bike tyres are slashed, her floppy disk is erased, she gets creepy, threatening phone calls – all by some anonymous perpetrator who really doesn’t want Jonathan to have a new girlfriend. Is it Louisa, back from the dead? Or someone more corporeal, with their own reason for wanting Annie out of the picture, who can perhaps shed some light on the mystery surrounding Louisa’s death?

The Dead Girlfriend differs from most Point Horrors in adopting a first-person narrative. The aim, I suppose, is to engage us in the story and its main character, and to enhance the horror with a greater sense of immediacy and relevance. It doesn’t work. The heroine is at best, dull; at worst, unpleasant, and she’s permanently uptight. Being inside her mind only exacerbated my frustration with her. Furthermore, R. L. Stine’s use of the first person, combined with his tendency to use very basic language, and short, simple sentences, means it all too often reads like an Oxford Reading Tree book.

On the plus side, there are some pleasing throwbacks for fans of 90s nostalgia (with references to MTV, Luke Perry and those good, old-fashioned Apple Macs). But, with its lacklustre plot, containing very little horror, threat or action, this entry seems doomed to obscurity. That is, until the shocking twist finale when The Dead Girlfriend gleefully unfolds all the revelations it’s been holding to its chest for the previous 150 pages. It is an action packed, satisfying payoff, which almost achieves a genuine sense of tragedy. Whilst R. L. Stine skilfully destroys the pathos of his deranged killer’s downfall with a few saccharine, unnecessary words, the finale offers up enough thrill to redeem this entry, a little way.

5/10

Fear Factor

The Dead Girlfriend, for most of its 180 pages, seems to go out of its way to avoid any suggestion of horror. Suspenseful, creepy moments are nipped in the bud by Annie’s cat jumping on to some part of her person. The only violence she is subjected to – mild electrocution from the keyboard of an old Mac – is vaguely ridiculous. The one moment of pure, nasty horror that we get, really does horrify by its unexpectedness. But, though it shocks, it also jars against the teenybopper terror of the rest of the story. I’m not sure whether this one moment rescues the entry from obscurity, or whether it is just incongruously obscene. Either way, changing the species of pet does nothing to hide the fact that it is completely ripped off from a film that came out about 6 years earlier.

3/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Train

By Diane Hoh.

Hannah is nervous about travelling by train on her class trip from Chicago to San Francisco. But her concerns about claustrophobic corridors and potential derailment pale into insignificance when she and her best friend, Kerry, discover a coffin in the baggage car. Worse still, it turns out to be the coffin of Frog, their reviled classmate, who recently perished in a fiery car accident and is being transported to his parents on the west coast. Mack and Lewis try to reassure their girlfriends by pointing out that Frog’s death – though tragic – renders him incapable of hurting anyone on the train. But as the friends share stories of the various ways in which they mistreated the creepy, delinquent dead boy, Hannah’s own guilt – which she keeps to herself – starts to eat away at her.

Then Frog’s girlfriend, Lolly, is attacked – strangled with a scarf as the train plunges through a dark tunnel. Hannah is the next victim, knocked unconscious and briefly imprisoned in Frog’s coffin. When Mack reports seeing someone who looked just like Frog during a layover in Denver, Hannah becomes convinced that someone else burned up in the car crash, and Frog is on the train, wreaking revenge on those who made his life at Parker High so miserable. It’s only after Lewis gets an ice pick in the collarbone, and their friend Jean Marie disappears, that the others start to believe she may be right.

The storytelling in The Train is tighter than the claustrophobic corridors Hannah hates so much, and once the action gets underway, it continues to gather pace like a runaway locomotive, hurtling towards the devastating conclusion. Even between the vicious attacks on Hannah and her friends, the atmosphere of tension and danger prevails because, on a train, there’s no place to run. Then comes the genuinely shocking twist, which is the most memorable across all of the PHs I have read. As if that wasn’t enough, Hannah’s long-withheld confession sets up an exciting, perilous, mist-drenched finale. A wild ride from start to finish, The Train is, for me, the absolute pinnacle of Point Horror.

10/10

Fear Factor

The lengthy description of Hannah, trapped, gradually realising where she is and then desperately, and in vain, trying to claw her way out of the coffin as she slides about on the satin, tears her nails on the wooden lid and, eventually, loses consciousness, is absolutely terrifying. As a child, the coffin scared me even more than the brief glimpses of Frog’s corpse which Diane Hoh cleverly describes in brief snatches – his form outlined in the dark on Hannah’s bunk, a tattooed wrist glimpsed through a barely open lid – just enough for our imaginations to fill in the gruesome blanks and conjure up monstrous bugaboos to haunt our sleep. It gave me nightmares back then, and made such an impression that down the years I have always recalled The Train as being my favourite Point Horror. On this re-read, whilst I’m not too concerned about sleepless nights, I still shuddered throughout Hannah’s ordeal, and was genuinely horrified by the ending I knew was coming. Frightening, tragic and fraught with peril, The Train merits no less than a top fear factor rating of…

10/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Mummy

By Barbara Steiner.

Lana is the ideal volunteer for her local museum’s Egyptian exhibition. Not only does she know everything about ancient Egypt, she even looks like a pharaoh’s bride. She could, it is remarked, be the reincarnation of Princess Urbena, the intended wife of Prince Nefra, who was supposedly murdered on the eve of his wedding, causing Urbena to commit suicide. Nefra’s mummified corpse and Urbena’s mysteriously vacant coffin are the highlights of the new exhibition, and Lana is obsessed with the doomed lovers; irresistibly drawn to the graven image of the handsome prince on his sarcophagus. She even starts to have vivid dreams where she is Urbena, going through the motions of the nights she and Nefra died.

But for many visitors to the museum, it is the priceless emerald necklace – a wedding gift from Nefra to his bride – which is the greatest draw, and which proves irresistible to a thief who smash and grabs the jewels right under Lana’s nose. Top of Lana’s list of suspects is Antef, a young Egyptian who has travelled with the artefacts from Cairo, to protect them. But when Antef is shut up in Urbena’s coffin – presumably by the real thief – Lana has doubts and starts to look elsewhere. Soon she is being subjected to threats – scorpions in her bedroom, a mummified cat thrown through her window – and they are using Lana’s resemblance to Urbena to frighten her, leaving notes in Nefra’s name telling her he wants them to be together again… All the while, her strange dreams and the bizarre attentions of a regal stray cat start to make Lana wonder whether she might actually be the reincarnated Urbana. And if someone really did murder the princess and her groom thousands of years ago – history might be about to repeat itself.

The Mummy is an intriguing whodunit, with particular appeal for anyone with an interest in Egyptology, or a fondness for museums. The varied, colourful cast – icy celeb-archaeologist Blair Vaughn; flirtatious, Brut-soaked Antef Raam; worldly history-nerd Rodney; and friendly, frumpy, fellow-volunteer Marge – entertains and keeps us guessing. There’s also a bonus scattering of possibly accurate ancient Egyptian trivia. Whilst the name conjures up Universal movie monster hijinks, the horror aspect is too often played down and that is frustrating. This mummy is a sad, romantic figure for our teenage heroine to fantasise and wonder about – a distraction from the very real threat she faces from a definitely human persecutor. It might not be what I hoped for from this title, but it’s a fun and memorable entry in the franchise.

7/10

Fear Factor

Lana’s superstitions and romance with a musty old corpse aside, the main action of The Mummy is driven by a theft and a thief’s attempts to cover his tracks. The grand larceny and intimidating behaviour of the perpetrator are real-world acts. We know there’s a human being behind the danger, and that they will eventually be unmasked. Lana’s dreams about being an Egyptian princess, and hints there may be supernatural forces at work, tend to jar against the story we know is actually being told. They might be entertaining digressions, but they take up pages which could be used to throw a bit of danger or threat Lana’s way. As it is, the few attempts at horror peter out frustratingly, without our protagonist ever really being at risk. I never thought I’d say this about anything – but maybe if there was a bit less of the cat…?

4/10

Categories
Point Horror

Help Wanted

By Richie Tankersley Cusick.

When Robin Bailey answers a ‘Help Wanted’ ad in the paper, she is surprised to learn she’ll be working at Manorwood – the mansion-home of the most sought-after boy in school, Parker Swanson. Though admittedly gorgeous, Robin is immune to his charms and repelled by his arrogance. And it turns out his family is very strange. His eccentric grandfather, Herk, hires Robin to catalogue his deceased daughter-in-law’s vast library, and Herk wastes no time in revealing his hatred for Lillith – Parker’s step-mother – who killed herself six months previously. Or his disdain for Lillith’s delicate and unbalanced daughter, Claudia, who claims to be haunted by her mother’s ghost. Swansons aside, Robin also has to contend with a nervous housekeeper, Winifred, and the drunk, lecherous caretaker, Skaggs.

What at first seemed like an easy way to make some fast cash, soon finds Robin embroiled in family drama, as each member of the Swanson clan takes a turn telling her their side of the story. She becomes convinced someone really is out to get the permanently terrified Claudia, and it seems they have no qualms about taking Robin down with her. With the help of potential new boyfriend, Walt, Robin aims to find out which of the Manorwood residents is targeting her new friend, before Claudia goes completely insane.

Help Wanted invites us to trudge through a rich family’s murky history, whilst working out which of the Swansons – alive or dead – is trying to drive a young girl crazy, and why. As a mystery, it’s occasionally engaging and entertaining, but the horror moments are few and far between, and there’s too great a focus on the relationship between Robin and Claudia, both of whom are really annoying. More interesting plotlines, such as the disappearance of their classmate, Vicki, are given short shrift. Most of the action is left to the confusing finale, which bangs through three twists and a fair amount of exposition in the last thirty pages. Whilst the premise of Help Wanted has potential, it delivers only a handful of horror moments, which are baggily held together by weak characters and a wishy-washy narrative. A disappointing entry from the usually reliable Richie Tankersley Cusick.

4/10

Fear Factor

Much of the tension in Help Wanted is diminished by the fact that our protagonist often shares the burden of fear with Claudia who, we are led to believe, is the main target of whoever is behind the mischief. The only times when Robin is left to face the danger alone, are in her encounters with sleazy Skaggs. The booze-sodden, pock-marked janitor is truly vile, and his perverted attempts to seduce her are cringeworthy. There is also some fine grotesque imagery in the description of a dismembered corpse Robin stumbles across in the woods. It is frustrating that these fertile grounds for horror are left largely unploughed, in favour of the bland and comparatively tame Lillith/Claudia storyline.

5/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Invitation

By Diane Hoh.

Sarah and her friends are not part of the ‘in-crowd’, yet for some reason they’ve all received invitations to their classmate Cass Rockham’s exclusive annual fall party. Sarah is suspicious and reluctant to go, but the rest of her group cannot wait. After much persuasion, they eventually convince her by pointing out that Sarah’s crush, Riley, will definitely be in attendance at the social event of the year. But as the five friends look forward to the party, they are also dealing with their own individual dramas. Ellie is being bullied by her nasty sister, Ruth, who cannot accept the fact that her stocky, plain sibling has been invited instead of her. Donald is trying to break up with a deranged girl he dated over the summer in order to free himself up for Maggie, whose feelings are mutual, and for whom Cass’s party is an ideal opportunity to act on them. Shane has recently started at their school, and is harbouring a terrible secret which she fears, if made known to her new friends, would see her ostracized, as she was in her last school. And Sarah has an overbearing mother to contend with, whose attempts to prevent her from going to a party which will distract her from schoolwork and violin practice, ultimately strengthens Sarah’s resolve to attend, have fun and snag Riley.

They have been at the party for about five minutes, when it becomes evident Sarah’s misgivings were well placed. A game of musical chairs sees the friends lose in succession before being led, separately, to five remote corners of the vast estate, where they are locked in enclosed spaces – becoming unwilling participants in a human scavenger hunt Cass has designed for her snobby friends’ amusement. Thankfully, Riley is as decent as he is attractive, and, disgusted by Cass’s mean trick, he sets about trying to free the five ‘losers’. It’s just as well, because someone is using the game for their own violent ends, and what starts as a joke, soon becomes a matter of life and death for Sarah and her friends.

By the time we rock up at Cass’s mansion, we know the five friends pretty well, we can’t help but like them a little, and we’re definitely intrigued by some of their personal dramas. And, once we’re at the party, we’re taken on a rollercoaster ride through the remaining action, with barely a moment to catch our breath. Filled with action, tension, peril (and a dash of romance), The Invitation is gripping; keeping us constantly intrigued as to what is going on, and who is behind it all, until the truths behind the mysteries come to light in a very satisfying finale. The fast-paced action and lively dialogue seal the deal, making this entry one of the most entertaining in the Point Horror franchise.

9/10

Fear Factor

Throughout The Invitation, Sarah and her friends spend much of their time isolated and in the dark – both literally and figuratively. And at one point or another, they all find themselves in very serious danger. There is an attempted carbon-monoxide poisoning – a prolonged, suspenseful section of the narrative, during which we genuinely fear for the character’s life. A race against time to save someone from a locked freezer is equally thrilling. Diane Hoh mercilessly dangles her characters between the jaws of death, and these terrifying situations, which culminate in a finale fraught with danger and violence, make for a hair-raising Point Horror experience.

9/10

Categories
Point Horror

Second Sight

By Sinclair Smith.

Grayson was blind, but now – thanks to a donated pair of corneas – she can see. She has arrived in Brooklyn to live with her sister, Kara, and is happily spending her summer hanging out with new friend Mina, and flirting with sexy local construction worker, Jared. There is just one problem. Since her second eye operation, Grayson has had visions of a murder taking place on the balcony of a fancy apartment. When she recognises the scene of the crime in a news story about the recently murdered millionaire TV producer, Zeke Stuart, Grayson suspects it is Zeke’s right cornea she has inherited… and his final moments she is experiencing in her visions. Sneaking an illicit peak at her file during a routine check-up, however, Grayson discovers the donor was Aileen Mills, who died in a car accident. Chastened by the furious Dr Leeds, when he catches her snooping, and relieved her donor wasn’t murdered, Grayson decides to ignore the visions and move on with her life.

But when she gets her next vision, it is of a completely different murder. This time the location is a dockyard, and a warehouse watchman is the victim. She convinces an open-minded policeman – Detective Soames – that her visions are credible, and Soames reveals that he knew Aileen Mills, because she was a psychic who worked with the police. Grayson’s latest premonition saves the watchman, and she starts to believe she has inherited Aileen’s psychic abilities. But someone else believes it too, and starts leaving Grayson threatening messages warning her not to thwart their murderous plans again.

The first half of Second Sight offers everything you could want from a murder-mystery. There is an appropriately sized and varied cast of characters, all of whom could be the killer, which kept me guessing and switching my convictions most of the way through. Grayson is just likeable enough that we remain on her side throughout. And the Manhattan/Brooklyn backdrop, melting in the New York heat, is a refreshing change from the ambiguous small-town setting of most Point Horrors. But after the midway point, situations become increasingly unbelievable and the very late introduction of a new character breaks whodunit-etiquette, and leaves the reader feeling cheated out of a decent twist. Two unnecessary, awkward epilogues end the story on a sour note. Second Sight starts on a path to being one of the most entertaining entries in the Point Horror franchise, but when it loses its way, it does so irredeemably.

6/10

Fear Factor

Even when it entertains, there is not much to fear in Second Sight. We are told Grayson’s visions are terrifying, but the brief descriptions offer little insight into her experiences. Any horror that might have been conjured up by the finale is overshadowed by the jarring grand reveal and its confusing fallout. An epilogue, which aims to suggest the threat is not yet over, falls flat due to it not making any sense. Still, whilst the killer’s identity remains a mystery, there is an element of danger in Grayson’s interactions with the other characters, creating a convincing feeling of unease and earning Second Sight a slightly less than dreadful fear factor rating of…

3/10

Categories
Point Horror

Camp Fear

By Carol Ellis.

Rachel is one of a group of teen counsellors getting Camp Silverlake ready to welcome its summer guests. Whilst Rachel is a stranger to the camp, Stacey, Mark, Steve, Jordan and Paul know each other from attending as kids. Although they haven’t stayed in touch, Rachel notices a palpable tension between them.

Creating a display of photos from the 20 years the camp has been in operation, Rachel includes snaps of her fellow counsellors as children – prompting strangely negative reactions from them and from the shifty janitor, Mr Drummond. Rachel is baffled, until Paul tells her about a boy – Johnny – who died at the camp when they were kids: the boy in the photo which Rachel has placed in the middle of her display. Paul reveals that Johnny was teased mercilessly by Steve, Mark, Jordan and Stacey… until he was found one day with a broken neck.

Good-natured rivalry between the girls and boys turns sour when Steve finds a rattlesnake in his sleeping bag, triggering his crippling phobia, and on a trip to a nearby island, someone scuttles Stacey’s boat and she is narrowly saved from drowning. Rachel starts to wonder whether someone is seeking revenge on Johnny’s bullies, by using their worst fears against them. But when she is targeted too, Rachel realises no one is safe.

Camp Fear meanders around the characters and the mystery for a long time, before finally gathering pace towards the finale. The interactions between the teens are occasionally entertaining, though some of the characters are more interesting than others. Rachel herself has very little personality. Despite being the protagonist, she is mostly a witness to proceedings, and is frustratingly never in any real danger. Because of this, it is difficult to feel invested in, or scared by, what happens. We are introduced to the perpetrator early on, via anonymous, first person snippets interspersed throughout the chapters. As the story progresses, these reveal a plan which is coming to fruition, building the anticipation ahead of the finale. There is potential for suspense here, but at the end, too much remains unexplained and unresolved.

3/10

Fear Factor

Camp Fear is a damp squib. The campsite setting is ideal for building tension and creating scares, but the isolated, tragedy-struck Camp Silverlake location is never used effectively. There is little sense of actual danger until the very end, and by that point, we have no investment in any of the characters, including Rachel. As it fails to deliver even a basic scare, Camp Fear gets a fear factor rating of…

1/5

Categories
Point Horror

The Snowman

By R. L. Stine.

Heather regularly fantasises about murdering her Uncle James, and you really can’t blame her. Ever since she was orphaned aged three, he has been a horrible guardian: mean and abusive; he steals from her trust fund and forces her to work in a greasy diner, leaving her no time to study, socialise or make out with her boyfriend, Ben. Waitressing one night, she meets a handsome boy with white hair who calls himself ‘Snowman’. New in town, he wastes no time in asking Heather out, and she eagerly accepts. Ben is kicked to the kerb as Heather escapes her dismal home life in a series of romantic dates with Snowman. Even her uncle’s persistent unpleasantness towards, and about, her new boyfriend does nothing to tarnish the gleam of their burgeoning love. But Snowman is not all that he seems to be, and when he reveals his true nature, Heather is not only in for a shock, she also finds herself in a desperate, and increasingly dangerous situation.

Heather’s interactions with her uncle are genuinely unpleasant. The implied threat and fear, bubbling under the surface, create a tension which I imagine quite accurately conveys the experience of living under the same roof as a bully such as James, and it makes for a gruelling read. For much of The Snowman, the romance between Heather and the titular character feels like a reprieve from the horror she endures at home. When the twist comes, and the romance evaporates, it is doubly upsetting, as our heroine is left to confront, alone, the terrible truth that is revealed. We are left, less with a horror story, but with a gripping thriller which culminates in an exciting final confrontation. The Snowman addresses some complicated issues with a light touch, without detracting from the seriousness of Heather’s situation. At the same time, it is a consistently interesting story which kept me engaged until the last page.

9/10

Fear Factor

The Snowman teems with tension and terrifying possibilities, with the horror delivered mainly via the disturbing interactions between Heather and the abusive men in her life. Whilst The Snowman probably fits more comfortably into the ‘thriller’ genre, its brutally realistic approach to its subject matter and the unshakeable sense of unease this creates, make this entry far scarier than standard Point Horror fare, earning it a solid fear factor rating of…

9/10