Book Review

Book Review: Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

“Saint Odd” by Dean Koontz is Koontz’s last story in the Odd Thomas series. I don’t know about you, but my reaction was “Thank goodness.” I enjoyed the earlier books in the series, but the latter ones had me wondering where in the world Koontz was going with the story. And frankly, he went nowhere.

Let’s back up a little and talk about who – and what – Odd Thomas is. Odd Thomas was a character in the self-same book published a few years ago. He was a young fry cook, an orphan who could see ghosts. Elvis and Frank Sinatra were two great ghosts who visited with him. The ghosts couldn’t speak, but they did make their presence known. Thomas can also see some unusual things, like demon-like spirits called bodachs who seem to thrive on mass murder.

After the initial book, Odd Thomas goes on to have adventures outside of his home town of Pico Mundo. There’s a mysterious figure called Annabelle, some sort of secret society trying to protect the world from evil forces, and a confusion of symbolism that hurt my head.

Much of the mumbo jumbo around secret societies, cults and a strange, quasi-immortal figure named Annabelle is never explained. The bad guys are always goons in fedoras toting guns and liking modern art and the good guys are always baking pies. It really gets annoying after a while.

I can’t say much more about the plot of this book without giving away the entire story. Suffice to say that Koontz trots out all his favorite things in this one:  all the Odd Thomas tropes are there, but we also have death by microorganisms, carnivals and dwarves, and knife attacks.

I will remain a loyal fan of Dean Koontz’ books, but this one? Unless you’re a huge fan of the Odd Thomas series, skip it. If you are a huge fan of the series, then of course you will have to read it….because it is the conclusion you’ve been waiting for!

My copy of this book was borrowed from the library. If you click the picture at the top, it will lead you to an Amazon affiliate link and you can buy the book. I receive a small commission which does not affect your price. Thank you.


So how do you like the new blog? As I move away from the marketing consulting model, I decided to relaunch the blog and combine several of my websites into one. I used to have three websites: Seven Oaks Consulting, the author site for Jeanne Grunert, AND a book review website called The Writer Reads. Now all three are rolled into one, and although I am keeping many of my previous marketing articles here on the blog,  new articles will focus on marketing as it pertains to my world of copywriting, SEO and long form web copy. I’ll also share updates on my own books and book reviews, as I used to do on The Writer Reads. Think of the blog now as Jeanne’s World….my own window on the world….and a place for me to share my ideas with my clients, fans and future fans!


Book Review

Book Review: Snow in August by Pete Hamill

I loved this book…right until the last 20-30 pages or so. And then I was left shaking my head, whispering, “Why? Why? Why did you just pull a Deus ex Machina, and what does it mean?”

Let me take a step back for a minute…

Snow in August is a gorgeous book. It’s the story of young Mike Devlin, an Irish kid growing up in Brooklyn in 1946.  Ebbetts Field is the promised land, kids fear a gang of toughs calls the Falcons, and World War II is still fresh in the minds of everyone. Mike lost his dad in World War II, and his tough mom works two jobs to make ends meet.

One morning, Mike awakens to a blizzard and makes his way to the Catholic church where he serves as an altar boy. The local rabbi beckons him into the synagogue to help light the worship space; because it’s the Sabbath, the rabbi cannot touch the light switches. Mike becomes the “sabbath goy”, the boy who comes to help the rabbi on the Sabbath.

The same day that Mike meets the rabbi, he and his buddies shovel snow for the local business people and earn money for their efforts. As any young boys will do, they decide to spend their money on comic books and candy bars, so they wander to Mr. G’s store.  One of the Falcons demands their money, and when Mr. G., the owner of the store intervenes, he is brutally attacked by the teenage thug. The other boys flee, but Mike is the only witness.

These two events – meeting the rabbi and witnessing the attack on Mr. G – shape Mike’s life for the next year. As he grows closer in friendship to the rabbi, he is troubled by his conscience, which demands conflicting ideals of never squealing on your friends while helping to catch the teen who beat up poor Mr. G.  While Mike doesn’t rat on the attacker  – he can’t, because of the law of the streets of Brooklyn and the unspoken code among the boys – his friends think he does. Mike must deal with losing his friends, protecting himself and his mother, and his growing friendship with the rabbi.

The book is a wonderful tale of friendship, both cross cultural and cross generational. Mike agrees to teach the rabbi English and American culture, while the rabbi agrees to teach Mike Yiddish, the common language of the Jewish people.  As Mike studies with the rabbi, he learns to appreciate learning, and vows to go to college – something no one in his neighborhood does. Most of the boys drop out of school and go to work on the docks, but Mike, thanks to the rabbi’s careful coaching, begins to love learning for its own sake.

The book is both coarse and lovely, truthful and poignant, until the very end.

And then…well, then…


Okay, here’s where the book goes off the rails. There’s magic involved in the end. There’s no magic in the rest of the book, and that’s where I have a problem with the ending. It’s an honest, wonderful story of 1946 Brooklyn, of a boy coming of age in a tough neighborhood.  So far, so good.

But when the author seems to box poor Mike into a corner – he can’t tell, but he must tell, he can’t fight, but he must fight – Mike ends up conjuring the magic Golem of Prague, a story the rabbi has told him and a story that becomes real when he conjures the Golem, it snows in August, and he vanquishes the Falcons to protect himself, his mother, the rabbi and Mr. G.

Until that moment, I absolutely loved the book and wanted to run out and buy more by the author. But I couldn’t believe the turn at the end. Really? Magic?

I wouldn’t have minded it so much if magic had been woven throughout the story. I like stories like that. But to trot it out just at the end felt wrong and weird. It felt like it didn’t fit the story at all.

All in all though, Pete Hamill can write. Boy, he can write. It was a great book and I hope to read more by the author.

On a side note….I worked with Hamill’s brother, John, in Manhattan, many years ago. Another great writer who taught me so much about journalism and PR!

I bought this book at the local library book sale. The picture at the top is a link to Amazon, where I have an affiliate account. If you click the picture and buy a product, I earn a little commission, which does not add to your costs.

Snow in August: 4 out of 5 stars despite the weird ending.


Book Review

Book Review: The City by Dean Koontz


The City by Dean Koontz was a disappointing book from one of my favorite writers. Yes, it was entertaining. Yes, it had good characters and it was beautifully written. But it lacked any semblance of the supernatural with the exception of Miss Pearl, a character I’ll get to in a minute (spoiler alert!).

The City follows young Jonah, a promising African American musical prodigy, in the early 1960s.  Jonah’s father abandons the family and takes up with their upstairs neighbor in the apartment complex where he and his mother live. Jonah receives a strange visit from Miss Pearl, who gives him a heart-shaped pendant that contains a feather. He has visions of teenager strangling his own father and of a cruel woman being strangled.

Aside from these visions and the apparition of Miss Pearl, there’s zero horror, zero suspense in this novel.  Jonah basically thwarts a plot from a bunch of 60s style radicals. He suffers. His mother overcomes hardship. Yawn.

Honestly, I think the biggest problem with this book wasn’t just the lack of horror or suspense. It was the character of Jonah himself. He was just too perfect. He’s polite to his elders, he’s adoringly cute, he’s a piano prodigy, he loves his grandfather.  The story is told from Jonah’s point of view as a flashback from his adult perspective, and perhaps that’s what makes it a little boring. It’s an adult relating a tale that happened to a child, and there’s just very little of interest in this all-too perfect kid. I mean honestly, couldn’t he do one little thing bad? Be bad at something, anything? Have a hang up, be afraid, sass his mother, anything?

He just rings too good to be true. So does his entire family. His mother is a singer with an opera-worthy voice who can’t seem to get gigs except at crappy cafes. His grandfather, another musical prodigy, struggles to play gigs at the local department store. Yet everyone is kind, faithful, family focused and loving to all.

The same goes for the bad guys, but in the opposite direction. The female villain is so one-dimensional you get very little sense of who she is or why she is so nasty and cruel. She’s almost a caricature of a villain flashing a switchblade knife and sneaking in and out of locked doors. The same goes for Jonah’s dad – a caricature of the abandoning father.

What holds the narrative together is Koontz’s amazing gift for language. His writing sings with a poetry and power few authors command, so I forgave him for most of these faults and plowed through the remaining narrative pages to find out what happened. And in the end, I was dreadfully disappointed.

Spoiler Alert

What gives with the character of Miss Pearl? That was another confusing element to the story. She introduces herself to the young Jonah as the personification of the city itself, the embodiment of their souls and stories. That’s a really fascinating concept. Then at the end it’s revealed that she is what – God? The Virgin Mary wearing a Chanel suit and disguised as a beautiful African American woman? Confusing, and unnecessary to drag that into the story…I wish he’d left her as the personification of the City, the souls of all who dwell in its concrete canyons rolled into one beautiful, intriguing woman.


Well, that’s my review of The City.  I borrowed my copy from the public library. The link above will take you to my Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase any products through this link, I receive a small commission, which does not affect your price. Thank you.

Book Review, Thriller

Book Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King


Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King finds one of the world’s most popular horror novelists writing in a new genre: thriller.  Mr. Mercedes also offers us an unlikely hero, a retired ex-detective named Bill Hodges. Overweight, depressed and bored, Hodges is contacted by the so-called City Center killer, a mass murderer who plowed a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of job seekers waiting outside the city’s coliseum for a job fair. The City Center killer was one of only four cases Hodges left unsolved before his retirement. Out of clues, out of time, Hodges turned the case over to his ex-partner Pete and resigned himself to a bored, lonely existence…until the City Center killer sends him a letter, taunting him to figure out his next move.

Hodges is joined by an intriguing and fully-fleshed out set of unlikely characters. There’s Jerome, an African American teenage neighbor who cuts his lawn and ends up becoming a sort of junior detective; Janelle, called Janey, the sister of the woman whose Mercedes was stolen by the killer, and a woman Hodges quickly falls in love with; and Holly, Janey’s cousin, an OCD, depressed and repressed 45-year old woman who reminded me of the Bette Davis character in Now, Voyager.

The City Center killer is known right from the start of the book to the reader, so I won’t give anything away by using his name. Brady, the killer, taunts Bill, but Bill is an expert at taunting criminals back and getting them to reveal enough information so he can solve crimes. Together with Jerome, Holly and Janey, he tracks down enough information to figure out how Brady killed Olivia, Janey’s sister, and where his next target will be. Then it is a race against time for them to put together all the clues and find the wily Brady.

One of the things that makes a good thriller is a detective and killer who are evenly matched. The killer has to get caught, of course, or at least get his comeuppance, or else the reader feels cheated. But it can’t be an easy catch or else the reader feels even MORE cheated. Here, King’s ability to write believable, three-dimensional characters really shines.  While I thought Hodges was a better written character than Brady, Brady’s intelligence is believable.

King’s characters in this book as excellent, but the plot, although well paced, had some cliches in it that I thought it could do without. We have the mama’s boy serial killer from a broken home. He seemed too much at time like the killer from Silence of the Lambs, except he had computers in his lair instead of women.

Although this isn’t my favorite King work, it is still a good work, and a solid, enjoyable read.  I borrowed my book from the public library, but you can purchase a copy on Amazon by clicking the link at the start of this blog post or the picture, above. It will take you to Amazon where I have an affiliate link. I receive a little compensation if you buy a book, but it does not affect your price. Thanks.


4 out of 5 stars for Mr. Mercedes.


Book Review, Memoir

Book Review: The Magic of Provence


I dream of Provence.

I yearn to live there.

Well…only if I can lead a charmed life, like Yvone Lenard.

Lenard, author of the wonderful memoir The Magic of Provence, truly did lead a charmed life when she stumbled over a tiny village in Provence, France.  She fell in love with the area – with the rugged mountains, the lavender-scented breezes, the nodding sunflowers, the delicious cuisine.

Lenard, who grew up in France but moved to America at age 16, felt a call on the spur of the moment to speak with a real estate agent about finding a house in the picturesque village tucked under the shadow of a Medieval castle.  Although the first few houses she saw didn’t work out, she finally found the right cottage, a tumbling down hovel previously owned by the village’s school lunch lady.  The 1500s home is thought to be have been the garrison of the old castle, and during renovations, she and her husband discover it’s true. Oh, and the house? Originally from 1100!

The author does seem to lead a charmed life, and while her writing style was engaging, I was tempted to sigh and roll my eyes as if to say, “Yes, sure; and you were born under a lucky star too, right?” Because I mean, come on – any one of us who even attempted to buy a home in another country, move back to the United States, and trust that all would be well would find crooks, thieves and blackguards ruining us, right? Instead, the author finds a wonderful local authority on renovating historical homes who handles all the details. She befriends the local royalty. Ah, well…

It’s not all roses and champagne, or lavender and rose as the case may be in Provence. Her cleaning lady cheats her as does her gardener. The cleaning lady stories were the most horrifying to me – the cleaning lady actually let her family sleep in the home while the Lenards were back in California!  And had the nerve to complain about it. Unreal.

In the end however, the stories add up to a charming, funny, witty, and fascinating glimpse into a life I can only dream of but probably will never experience. The Lenards have the money and leisure to pursue their dream of owning a home in France, and they pursue it with gusto.  I enjoyed reading about their adventures in St. Tropez, the time an elephant almost stampeded during an open air performance of Verdi’s Aida, and how a 5-star Michelin chef personally brought a silver bowl of lettuce to their pet rabbit who made the extraordinary journey from the United States to France.  A boring life, no – not the Lenards.

If you love memoirs, then you will love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished it wouldn’t end. My only regret? Not being able to read the duchess’ book, for Lenard not only befriended the duchess, she encouraged the glamorous lady to write her own memoir. The resulting family history and history of the castle preserved an important piece of local lore forever.  If it’s translated into English, I want to read it.

4 out of 5 stars for this book.

I received my copy as part of Paperback Swap, a club where participants trade books. You can purchase your copy through Amazon by clicking the link above. I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission when you purchase books using these links, but they do not affect your price in any way.

Book Review, Historical Fiction

I think I’ve mentioned before the Dollar Tree, the local dollar store, has bins of $1 books every summer. I rummaged through the bin to find potential summer reads and The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld was one of those lucky books that found its way out of the bin and into my purchases. It was a hefty tome, weighing in at over 400 pages, a work of historical fiction that could have benefited from further editing and refinement. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the author’s other works.

The date is September 16, 1920, and the first terrorist bombing in American history hits…New York City. Yes, you read that correctly. September 11th wasn’t the first terrorist attack on United States soil. On September 16, 1920, a huge bomb was detonated on Wall Street near the stock exchange and J. P. Morgan’s bank. Many died, many more were wounded, and the bombing was never solved.  Historians believe it was the work of anarchists, but no one group ever stepped forward to claim responsibility, and the “day that America will never forget” is now a day forgotten by nearly all Americans.

Jed Rubenfield uses this historical event to weave a tale around two interesting characters: Littlemore, a New York City police detective, and Younger, a battle-weary physician who still bears the mental scars of World War I. Added to the plot is Colette, a beautiful Frenchwoman whom Younger loves, and her younger brother, Luc, who stopped speaking after their parents and grandmother were murdered by the Germans when their town in France was invaded.

The bombing is the hinge upon which the plot turns, but there are many subplots.  Colette asks Younger’s help to find treatment for her brother, and the three journey to Vienna to consult with Sigmund Freud, who eventually cures Luc. Colette is obsessed with finding a German named Hans Gruber, who she says is her fiance, but who we find out is anything but a fiance. There’s Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium, a crooked and psychopathic factory owner, three strange Italian women following Colette around, kidnapping attempts, immanent war with Mexico…

If you’re feeling lost reading my summary above, it’s not your imagination. I tended to get lost in the plot myself. The author had too many subplots and intrigues going on, and he ended up summarizing events in huge chunks to get to the “good stuff” and move the plot along.

I loved the Younger-Colette theme and wished Rubenfield had made that the subject of one book, then used the Wall Street Bombing as another book entirely. It would have made the entire book faster-paced and more interesting.

Given all of these limitations, however, I did enjoy the book.  The characters were exceptionally well-defined and interesting, defying stereotypes found often in historical fiction. For that alone, I’d recommend the book.

I’m also a sucker for books set in old New York City.  I love New York City, and grew up in its shadow as well as worked in it for 10 years, and it’s in my blood. Imagining horses and carriages, old Model T Fords, and men in top hats strolling along Wall Street was pure pleasure for me.

3 1/2 stars out of 5, with the extra half a star for the fun characters.

I purchased my copy at Dollar Tree, but if you click the link above, it will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase your copy. I do make a tiny commission on the sale but it does not affect your overall price. Thank you.


Book Review, Memoir

Book Review: Cat Daddy, by Jackson Galaxy


A cat lover? Me? Why, just because I have five felines and one ‘semi’ adopted feral I feed whenever he shows up, whatever makes you say I’m a crazy cat lady?

Okay, I confess: I adore cats. I always have. My life wouldn’t be complete without cats. From their obnoxious independence to their cuddly purring, I love my cats. They’re family.

But they’re not without problems. That’s why I tune into Animal Planet’s show, My Cat From Hell.  I’ve always liked its host, cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. He’s funky and fun with his guitar case full of cat toys, his twin pieced ears, his bowling shirts and tattoos. This is a guy who looks so comfortable in his own skin that you can imagine the cats eyeing him from under the sofa and thinking, “Hmm…a kindred spirit.”

Jackson Galaxy’s book, Cat Daddy, was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I say “surprisingly” because it wasn’t about Benny, the cat he adopted, but more about Jackson’s life, his battle with drugs, alcohol and compulsive overeating, and how the animals in his life saved him. Working with animals, first at the local animal shelter then in tandem with Dr. Jean, a veterinarian with whom he originally set up his cat behavior practice, pretty much saved Jackson’s life, giving him meaning and purpose as he was battling an addiction to prescription drugs, booze and everything in between.

Benny, the cat mentioned on the cover, isn’t even a minor player in the story. He mentions Benny occasionally to make a point, but I think the weakest aspect of the book was trying to link Jackson’s story to just one of the animals in his life. I didn’t feel that Benny’s rescue story was that compelling. A better rescue story for cat lovers is Dewey, the library cat.

That doesn’t mean that the book is boring. Not by a long shot! It’s a solidly written memoir that focuses on one aspect of a man’s life, and it’s an intriguing, engaging read.

I enjoyed the book very much and am glad that I purchased a copy from the Bargain Books catalog. If you’d like to read it, you can find a copy at the library, or order from Amazon by clicking the picture of the book cover, above. I receive a small commission from the order, but it does not affect your price. Thank you.

3 and a half stars out of 5.



Book Review, Memoir

Book Review: My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner

When I saw this memoir listed in the Bargain Books catalog, I had a feeling I’d like it. I didn’t expect to love it, but love it I did. What a fun tale that reminded me of my own German grandmother and all the immigrant grandmothers I’ve ever met in my lifetime!

Meir Shalev is the consummate storyteller. With a storyteller’s flair, he winds his tale around an unlikely spool: a vacuum cleaner. Not just any vacuum cleaner, mind you. A Hoover canister vacuum sent to his Russian grandmother living in Israel in the early 20th century by her no-good, American immigrant brother in law.

This isn’t just the story of his grandmother. The many layers woven throughout the tale include a fascinating glimpse at the founding of Israel, the early immigrants who settled the agricultural regions of Israel, and growing up Israeli among these salt of the earth people.

Shalev’s grandmother, Tonia, grew up as a fairly well-to-do young girl in Ukraine. When she was 15, she immigrated to Israel to marry. The second wife of an Israeli first-generation settler, Tonia soon found that her new lifestyle on a rugged farm in the middle of the Israeli agricultural region was a tough life and not at all what she was promised.  Tonia took control of her life by fighting the one enemy she could never vanquish: dirt. She became a clean freak, but not in a pathological, Adrian Monk type way. Instead, it was more like the clash of the titans. Tonia versus farm dirt.

Shalev describes his grandmother in loving detail, not sparing the harsh parts of her personality to romanticize her. She is unforgiving and coarse, sometimes cruel. But she is also incredibly hard-working and feisty. Her quirks make her a fascinating, very real person in the story.

The vacuum cleaner itself links all the stories in the book. They weave in and out around the vacuum cleaner like it’s some kind of weird May pole. The stories tell not just Tonia’s life, but the lives of Shalev’s extended family, his neighbors in Israel, and even those who immigrated to America.

The book was originally written in Hebrew, then translated into English, but fortunately the translator left the Yiddish intact, and as a former New Yorker, I enjoyed reading the phrases peppered throughout the book.  Just a side note, but it was fun recognizing expressions I heard growing up near Queens, New York.

This book was truly a delightful, fun and rollicking tale of extended family, family ties, and the history of Israel.  I didn’t expect to love it, but I did.

Four out of five stars. I purchased my copy of this book from Bargain Books, but you can purchase your copy by clicking on the picture above. It takes you to Amazon, where if you buy the book from Amazon, I receive a small commission. It does not affect your price in any way.

Book Review, Memoir, Paranormal

Book Review: I’m Looking Through You

Have you ever purchased a book because of the descriptive blurb on the back cover or inside flap only to find that the blurb was written by someone who apparently never even read the book? That’s how I felt about I’m Looking Through You. I bought this book because it was touted as a memoir written by someone who grew up in a haunted house. It ended up being about that, but also about a person “haunted” by feeling trapped in the wrong gender.

Jennifer Finney Boylan was born James Finney Boylan in a wealthy, well-to-do Philadelphia family. To put the family in perspective, his father oversaw the merger that resulted in PNC Bank.  His family is lovingly portrayed as eccentric, kind, and talented, and I enjoyed Boylan’s writing style very much. I could really “see” her parents and sister, Lydia, as well as eccentric extended family members such as Gammie (grandmother) and various aunts, uncles, cousins and pets.

Jim, the author, moves into the Coffin House (named after a previous owner – but what a name!) when he’s an adolescent, and begins seeing apparitions in the decrepit old Victorian mansion. Apparitions of a woman in a night dress, a child, and a formless, frightening blob or mist appear and strange happenings, such as his chair moving by itself, are commonplace. Although frightened, Jim accepts the paranormal with aplomb. I liked that about him. It emphasized his quirkiness, which could have come off as annoying in the book, but instead made him endearing. 

The first third of the book is rather slow, although interesting and entertaining. We learn more about Jim’s family and his struggles with his gender. Although born male, Jim yearns to be female. He wears women’s clothing in secret, and his androgynous appearance and feminine tastes make him the target of cruel teenage bullies who called him derogatory names.  As Jim grows up in a haunted house, he also grows up feeling haunted by his own hidden life. He fails to have an intimate relationship, for example, with two different girls he’s interested in because he feels like a phony around them; how can you love someone, the author wonders, if you cannot reveal your true self to them?

Later on, the book moves more rapidly, first through his teens and early 20s and then beyond. The issue of his sex change operation that transformed Jim into Jenny is glossed over, and I had hoped by this time in the narrative to better understand the whole issue of transgendered people, who I freely confess, I don’t understand at all.  Perhaps that’s not the book Jennifer intended to write; she intended to write of growing up haunted, both externally and inside her own body as a boy.

Spoiler alert: The best scene in the whole book doesn’t involve a ghost. It involves an overflowing toilet. The toilet not only overflows, it backs up, and gallons of water flood the home…and I can’t say any more except it’s hilarious.

Jennifer Boylan can write, that’s for sure. She writes articulately and lyrically about haunted houses, haunted genders, and haunted relationships.

I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book if someone had told me it was about gender issues. But I’m glad I did. Maybe that was the intention of whoever wrote the jacket blurb – to introduce readers like me to author Jennifer Finney Boylan, a unique voice and strong talent in the world of memoir. I look forward to reading her next book and catching up with her previous books.


Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5.  A good read that I bought from a book catalog. The link from the cover image of the book at the start of this review will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase the book. I receive a small commission for the sale but it does not affect your price in any way.



Book Review, horror

Book Review: The Exorcist



The Exorcist. What can you say about this book that hasn’t already been said – or said by fans of the film? Published over 40 years ago, the book reads as if it was written yesterday. William Peter Blatty managed to set the book in the 1970s without making it feel dated. I read the book once many years ago, and of course saw the movie, but reading it a second time gave me new insights into the characters – as well as made me notice a few flaws in the book itself, which upon casual first reading were hidden.

I won’t belabor the plot since it’s so familiar to most people. Chris McNeil, a movie star, is on location in Georgetown, Washington D.C. to finish filming a movie. She is a divorced mother with a young daughter, Reagan, servants named Karl and Willie, and a tutor for her daughter named Sharon. Her ex-husband Howard is out of the picture and she lost a son, James, to a medical mistake.

The book opens with an intriguing archaeological dig near Mosul, Iraq. We learn that the archaeologist is a Jesuit priest, who senses that an old enemy, a demon, has been awakened or is following him. It’s not really clear how he knows this or why.

The book then shifts to Washington D.C. Chris is an atheist, and allows her daughter to play with Ouija boards and the occult. Strange rappings and knocks begin after her daughter starts mucking around with  magic, culminating of course in the now famous possession of little Reagan.

A mysterious death linked to the house brings Lt. Kindermann into the picture, a bumbling Columbo-like detective who uses speech to deflect and misdirect suspects from his inquiries. Also brought into the case is psychiatrist and Jesuit priest Damien Karras, who is having a crisis of faith which sounds more like a caregivers’ exhaustion than anything else.

There’s guilt a-plenty in the household. Chris feels guilty about her divorce and the loss of her son, Damien feels guilty because he couldn’t care for his aging mother. Even Karl the servant has secrets to hide – his heroin-addicted, club-footed daughter.

The novel progresses as Chris tries modern science and psychiatry to get to the root of her daughter’s bizarre and dangerous behavior, only to find her turning to the church as a last resort. Damien must also reconcile faith and reason before seeking and receiving church permission to perform the exorcism.  It is only at the end of the book, when he chooses the ultimate sacrifice – his life for Reagan’s – that he resolves his crisis of faith.

So that’s the basic plot. It’s a fast-moving and gripping novel that you can’t put down, and although filled with profanity, disgusting desecration and a scene or two that will give you nightmares, it’s worth the read. But here’s where I find it flawed.

  • The opening – we meet Father Merin. Well and good. But he doesn’t arrive until the end, and then he leaves rather quickly. What’s his back story? We get hints that he battled this demon in Africa once before. That’s intriguing. Did the demon seek out a suitable host or did it seek out a host near Merin so that it could face him once again?
  • Reagan and the church desecrations.  Kindermann links paint found in Reagan’s play room and used to decorate a sculpture of a bird Reagan made for her mother to paint uses to desecrate a statue of the Virgin Mary in the nearby church. He also matches the font on Sharon’s typewriter to a note, typed in fluent Latin and filled with vile desecration, left in the church. We’re left to assume that Reagan somehow snuck out of the house while possessed and committed these atrocities. No one notices that an 11 year old girl has snuck out of the house carrying paint, or typing a lengthy note on the typewriter? When did these things happen in a house with three servants whose only job is to watch her while her mother works?
  • Damien Karras…an intriguing character to be sure. His back story is filled with the pain and longing of an immigrant. Is he an illegitimate child? His father is never mentioned. He is wracked with guilt, not just because he could not save his mother from illness and death, but because he was embarrassed by her and fled into the world of medicine, academia and religion to hide his past. He’s having a dreadful crisis of faith, which I felt strongly was brought about by over work, and probably reflects a crisis of faith that most thinking adults have at one time or another. A dark night of the soul, one might say.  It is beautifully reconciled in the book, but the narrator only focuses on him in the last quarter of the book.
  • Kindermann. On my second reading of the book, I found him to be a necessary but quite annoying character. He’s necessary because he adds to the tension – will he or won’t he accuse Reagan of the murder of the director? Will he insist on seeing her, and if he does, what then?  But he annoyed the heck out of me. Perhaps it’s the Columbo-like allusions. Was Columbo on television before or after Blatty wrote the book? I suppose it doesn’t matter. His quirks got on my nerve.


Is the book worth reading? Yes. It is a classic occult horror novel, and while graphic, filled with enough spine-tingling terror to make you keep the light on.

I bought my book from a catalog. You can purchase your copy by clicking on the picture, above, which will take you to an Amazon link to purchase the book. I receive a small commission on the sale but it does not affect your price.