Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What are ghosts even made of anyway?"
"That's immaterial, Clay."
says the ghost.
Both Stephen R. Bissette and Farel Dalrymple commend this book to you on the back, and I do so here but not for the same reasons. I seem to have had a slightly different experience: that of an enjoyably staged, spacious affair set in and around small-town America with the tone and timing of THIEVES AND KINGS. It's pretty hefty; few very early works are this long these days.
Cassie and younger brother Clay arrive back at the petrol station run by their Dad after eight years absence. Chris has been running it 24/7 ever since their Dad disappeared a fortnight ago. He's so bushed he's virtually narcoleptic and seems to have slept through the latest incident: severed fingers found in a pool of blood beside the petrol pump. He's reporting it to Tracy the Sheriff just as they arrive.
Paul is dreaming of his father's acute illness. The hospital room opens up to the woods - his father has disappeared into them. Still, at least he's not ill himself, yet. He meets his friend Albert in the diner close to where the locals are protesting against all the people missing after venturing into the woods. The Sheriff wants to close them off while they investigate. Albert suspects ulterior motives: that she's financially in bed with forest ranger Jonah, wanting to raise the woods to the ground for profit.
Jonah went missing a week ago. Whether or not he is financially in bed with Tracy, he's biblically in bed with Rachel, and his wife Angie is far from best pleased. She brings their son Jordan over to play with Clay. Chris is drawing deer, Clay is drawing ghosts - specifically the sort of bed-linen ghost that floats through the air, just like the one that lured him out to the woods last night and showed a deer, slashed deep by claws. There was something else in the woods last night.
Jordan says he's seen the ghost too, but he hasn't. The floating bed sheet informs Clay of that in no uncertain terms, and has a little fun with Jordan to prove it. A woman falls through the diner door, exhausted.
It's all very dreamlike and utterly charming. There is something dark in the heart of this as the mystery plays itself out, but no one seems to have picked up on the comedy. The ghost is hilarious. Although immaterial, it casts a shadow wherever it goes and when it rises from the paddling pool it drips water! It is at once demanding yet oblivious, and the piece at the party was in retrospect brilliant.
I won't deny for one second that the blank-eyed art is slightly derivative, but hey, we should all choose our sources so well!