If a book blurb tells me a certain book is like a King, Kafka, and Poe nightmare wrapped up in one, I am there, first in line, sign me up. This book lives up to its jacket, but it's heavy on the Kafka, middling on the Poe and includes a whiff of Shirley Jackson and for me, a dollop of the likes of Nabokov. The story itself is creepy like something King may write, but with an ending that is fitting its readers without a myriad of scrambling characters to keep up with. At first, upon opening this book, I didn't really know what I'd gotten myself into. But then I just kind of threw myself into the superb writing and went along for the ride, and then I liked it and then I remembered the Kafka reference, and I liked it even more.
Deadfall Hotel may not be for everyone, but if you like really good, stylized writing on the gothic/horror side, you will adore and love it. It's about a man who has lost his wife in a fire and his name is Richard. He answers a rather obscure ad in the paper for a caretaker of a hotel and is interviewed by a man named, Jacob. Richard takes Serena, his young daughter who is on the brink of teenagerhood to live in this very interesting place, the Deadfall Hotel. It's vague and sometimes more nondescript than I would have liked, but nonetheless, the hotel is enchanting and scary in its own way. There are creatures and people who live or come to stay in the hotel who would rather stay to themselves and sometimes they do mix in with Jacob, and Richard who is learning the ropes, and Serena. The lines blur and come back into focus and things get stranger and stranger and then come back into focus and that's how I found this book throughout. I am also sure it's worth another read. If if gets confusing for you as a reader, have another sip of wine and keep reading.
Jacob keeps a diary throughout the book and I really enjoyed his take on the happenings. He's been at the Deadfall since the sixties and he's used to the way it changes shapes and how certain rooms and areas open up and then go away. He's also used to the strange inhabitants that are sometimes more alluded to than uncovered entirely. There are some very strange visitors that one gets to know, shall we say a little more intimately, than others. I will let Steve Rasnic Tem tell you about them when you read the book, as I could not do justice with a description. There are also strange ritualistic things that need be done each year around the hotel and Jacob explains them to Richard in ways that say, 'they just need to be done,' and for good measure.
Then there is the underlying theme of dealing with loss and love and life and family. This book covers a gambit with expertly written prose. I don't know, but I learned to love it. It's well written and very different, which makes me think the book is like fresh air, well maybe not fresh because it is the Deadfall Hotel where nightmares and the like reside or go to....(well never mind). Think Kafka. It's really about going on your way in life, getting to the brink of something disastrous, coming back and getting on track again and hopefully, in the best light possible.