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The Abyss

Novel by Steve Vance 1989.

Mikey Lockwood and his wife of three days are on their honeymoon, struggling through a deluge in the middle of the night on their way to Kansas City, when they drive into the sleepy town of Euphrata, Indiana. The sheriff directs them to an unofficial boarding house, the York Mansion, where they stay the night. Two days later Mikey's sister Cathy is informed that her brother drove into a river, killing him and his wife. But Cathy also receives a postcard from Mikey, dated after he drove into the river. There's obviously something going on and naturally she is determined to find out what. Arriving in Euphrata a year later, she teams up with Greg Hoode who is staying there for the summer with his uncle. Together they try to uncover the secret behind the Yorks and indeed the town - a place with a zero crime rate, where 90-year olds are sprightly and where there is no hospital because no-one is ever ill.

The Abyss really didn't promise to be that good. The cover of my Leisure Books copy is tacky to say the least, with a sickly orange title that looks like somebody forgot to emboss it, and a particularly uninspiring blurb on an equally sickly green back cover. But once into the book, it was difficult to put down. Vance is obviously a well-read horror addict, as there are a lot of allusions to other books here: for instance, one of his characters confesses that he once kidnapped a young woman just to copy the plot of Mendal Johnson's classic Lets Go Play at the Adams'; and the ending is a clever version of the finale of John Blackburn's Children of the Night. But Vance doesn't steal other people's plots, he just borrows them to fiendishly weave into something more. Don't look at the cover and ignore the book for years like I did, because that would be a crime.


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