Monday, November 1, 2010
It’s Halloween – and a great time to sit down with a scary new book, avoiding the shifting shadows and the grinning skulls lurking in the dark.
“Asylum Lake” by Grand Rapids author R. A. Evans (Chapbook Press, $15) has a striking cover design that should entice many new readers. It’s an intriguing psychological tale set in the small fictional town of Bedlam Falls in northern Michigan.
It introduces Brady Tanner, who’s been successful as a Chicago journalist, but is trying to escape the realities of the tragic death of his wife and their unborn child. The death of Tanner’s father causes Tanner’s return to the small old house where he spent many summers as a youth. It also brings back fond memories, as well as thoughts about the time he almost died.
The town has grown significantly since Tanner left; the huge state mental institution (which closed in 1958) still looms darkly on the shores of the lake. His former girlfriend April, has moved back to town to take care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s; her young daughter Abby is pivotal to the plot.
Evan’s paperback debut jumps back and forth between decades, including scenes of a violent mass murder by a teenager and other assorted deaths.
The pacing picks up in the last half as Tanner, with the help of police officers, diligently unearths a variety of horrific dark secrets of the mental institution.
In a realistic manner, not all of Tanner’s puzzling questions are answered, although many deadly past events are significantly clarified.
This is the first of a planned series of three books showcasing Tanner. The next volume has him learning more about the background and the fate of the asylum’s elusive last director, Dr. Wesley Clovis.
While Evans’ new release could use a bit stronger character development, it’s still a taut tale liable to raise significant goose bumps.
Evans, a former journalist, has worked in marketing and public relations for the past 15 years; he’s an adjunct faculty member at Grand Valley State University.