Monday, November 30, 2015

Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden

Not everyone is who they appear to be in Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden.

Frank isn't where he thought he'd be in life. Literally. He's recently been confined to his basement by a menacing assailant who looks like exactly like him. This strange man starts to live Frank's life, getting a better job, establishing a better reputation, even looking better, while his original becomes weaker and more miserable, handcuffed at the bottom of his house. The longer he's trapped there, the more Frank forgets who he was - and the less he wants to remember.

Tess, scarred physically and emotionally by the curves life has thrown her, tries not to harbor resentment for her ex-husband, Nick, who seems to have moved on quite easily after their divorce. He even has a new girlfriend. One day, when Tess encounters Nick in the street, he acts like he doesn't know her, even claims to have another name. Then Tess calls her ex and discovers he's nowhere near Boston, and that man she saw - that perfect twin - couldn't have been him. But who was it, then? Tess confides in her best friend, Lili. But soon, Lili has troubles of her own - and perhaps a double of her own, too...

Audrey's work debunking faux psychics and charlatans has also exposed her to people who do have a sixth sense and who can communicate with the dead. Well-educated and happily married with a baby on the way, Audrey knows that there is true evil in this world - and she must be careful not to let it touch her family, or herself. But she can no longer keep such things at arm's length when a group that she worked with years ago comes knocking at her door, needing her help and expertise in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from the strange dopplegangers that are populating their lives...

Dead Ringers is a new twist on the evil twin story, one of otherworldly horror laced with intrinsic doubts, where personal histories and dark, supernatural elements mix with motives and instincts that are deeply human. Combine that with strong, layered characters and this makes for a frighteningly real foray into our darkest fears.

Christopher Golden employs a diverse cast, the kind I wish more movies, TV shows, and other stories would showcase: characters with different backgrounds, different skin colors, different pairings and homes and physical limitations and emotions and responsibilities - and these character traits are described and discussed responsibly. For example, how Nick deals with things, because he has Asperger's, which is never an excuse, never an apology or a punchline, simply the scope through which he views the world. I also appreciate the fact that although most of the main characters are roughly the same age and have some overlapping interests, they are at different stages in life and have vastly different jobs.

Let's not forget our youngest character, Maddie, Nick and Tess' daughter. She is delightful, youthful, and important to the story without ever being a textbook pawn nor a victim.

And that ending! Once again, Golden gives a solid conclusion to the overall story and wraps up the individual storylines, then delivers a haunting final page that tears right into the eyes and hearts of readers.

There's a certain element in this book that reminded me of a classic story I enjoy. I won't say which one, because I don't want to give too much away, but I will say the way Golden employed this item gave me shivers and slivers.

Dead Ringers was released November 3rd, 2015.

If you're new to the world of Golden books, check out my post Where to Start: Reading Christopher Golden.
My favorite standalone novel by Golden is The Boys Are Back in Town.
His latest releases include Tin Men and Inheritance.

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