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The Taken / Sarah Pinborough

th51FK5C93C2L._AA240_.jpgLeisure / April 2007
Reviewed by: Derek Clendening

A storm brews at the novel’s outset, refusing to subside until the last word is cast in ink. The figurative and literal storm alive in Sarah Pinborough’s The Taken proves this British author as one who knows all the right buttons to push. It also adds the necessary sense of doom and gloom vital to any horror yarn. When cancer patient Alex visits her cousin Paul on his fortieth birthday, her aunt Mary unearths the corpse of a child thirty years dead. This archetype of the ghost child is the catalyst for a consistent, bone-chilling unease in The Taken. Alex struggles to discover the identity and motivations of other mysterious children playing in the Somerset storm. These children are ill-dressed for the weather and appear to originate from a different era. Their existence in a place called ‘the in between’, and the legend of Melanie Parr, are examples of the fear created by the archetypical child spectre.

The novel’s strength is that it doesn’t rely solely on vapid horror gloom -- the afore-mentioned storm -- to startle. Pinborough demonstrates an understanding of a common source of dread. Using children to supplement the Melanie Parr legend adds a creepy mystique to the novel. These children exist in ‘the in between’ to live out lives they would have lost early. This literary device is not only creepy, but it appeals to broad sensibilities. The prose itself is average, but the writing is tight.

The novel’s primary flaw is that it relies on a mode of story-telling all too common to the genre. The first convention used is the Melanie Parr legend. She was an evil child, which is still creepy, but the use of a sketchy past is very traditional. Parr dies and her remains are found ‘thirty years later’. Thirty years seems to be the magic number in much of horror fiction and The Taken is no exception. The second problem is the use of The Catcher Man. While the figure itself is appropriately unsettling, he seems like a re-packaged boogeyman.

Overall, the sense of dread and creepiness make The Taken a very enjoyable and genuinely terrifying read. It isn’t a book safe for late nights during real-life storms. Pinborough has proven why she’s earned a seat in the company of Leisure’s hottest new stars. Simply put: this is a very scary book.

Purchase Sarah Pinborough's The Taken

Posted on Monday, September 3, 2007 at 02:17PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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