Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psycho House by Robert Bloch

Pyscho House
by Robert Bloch

It has been more than thirty years since Norman Bates was institutionalized; nearly a decade since he escaped, was murdered, and promptly replaced as the Psycho by his former psychiatrist; and now an enterprising businessman has decided to rebuild the Bates Motel and Norman's old house to turn them into a tourist attraction, complete with dummy mummies and animatronic killers.

Journalist Amy Haines travels to Fairvale, the town nearest to Norman's old digs, in hopes of collecting information for a book. She arrives just in time to hear the news: a young girl has been found murdered at the Bates house. And more bizarrely, the Mother dummy has been stolen.

Haines immediately launches into her own investigation, although she is met with opposition from nearly the entire town's population. Her only assistance comes from Hank Gibbs, the editor of the local newspaper. Someone new has taken on the unofficial mantle of the Psycho, and the closer they get to the truth, the deeper they place themselves in danger.

Bloch's original Psycho was a psychological horror tale. Psycho 2 had more in common with the slasher genre. This third and final entry in the series is much less of a horror story than it is a detective novel. The murders are few and far between, and it's not until the end that our protagonists seem to be in any real danger. That is to say, the suspense is essentially non-existent.

That being said, I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit, definitely more than its snarky metafictional predecessor. The characterizations were strong, and the notion of a demon possession introduced here (even if it did prove faulty) was an interesting one to wrestle with.

There's no doubt about it: Bloch could tell one hell of a story, and his prose has gotten better with each successive entry. My only qualms lie in the fact that he can get a little "cutsie" with language (phrases like "Shower put off and nightgown put on" abound), and the book ends on a ridiculous preachy note that seems lifted from an after school special.

Well worth the read. Too bad that Bloch has passed on. I would gladly welcome another couple entries in the series, and I wouldn't even be completely averse to them being written by someone else. I know that's bound to be considered blasphemy by some, but hey...they did it to Hitchcock.

Who do you think should take a stab at it?

--J/Metro

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