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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the lazy-minded
This is an evocative, creamy novel of madness and bizarre realms, ghosts, psychic gamesplaying and the restructuring of reality. It's definitely not for the lazy-minded, or even somebody just looking for a quick sit-down Sunday morning read. Piccirilli's narrative style is full-throttle weirdness that scoops the reader into a story that breaks rules at every turn...
Published on May 8 2001

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2.0 out of 5 stars Subpar Horror Story
Tom Piccirilli is one horror author that makes me scratch my head in confusion. This author has won at least one Bram Stoker Award, the plum prize of those authors who write horror, for one of his novels. "The Deceased" is the third Piccirilli novel I have read, with the other two being "The Night Class" and the entertaining western "Grave...
Published on Sept. 20 2003 by Jeffrey Leach


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4.0 out of 5 stars Straight to Madness!, May 3 2004
By 
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
With an urge for some mind-blowing horror and a touch of insanity on the side, I opened this book with an unhealthy need for pure evil. So, with my soda on hand, I dimmed the lights and stoked the fire. When I finished, I not only had a bad case of paranoia, but also a newfound respect for Picirilli.

Twisting at each turn, The Deceased manages to intrigue and horrify. A plot so convoluted, you find yourself bound and screaming for more. The only problem being that it perplexes you almost to the point of bailing out. It never manages to hold you while maintaining at best a simple touchstone. So remember to prepare to be thrown with no rope in sight. Opening right into the action, the pace is erratic and unavailing. I suggest you keep a paper bag available at all times should you become light headed.

The characters had almost no backstory, no real insight into who they are in depth and it worked so well for this book. The characters actually feel secondary to the events in the story and that was absolutely genius. With a hallucinogenic atmosphere, Picirilli manages to coat the air with confusion and a serpentine reality. So laden was it, that you feel as if your walking through a blinding fog. Abandoning structure of any kind, the author's style of writing is still one of the best and sadly least celebrated. With an elegance almost forgotten today, he writes with grace and always succeeds to be original.

I give this book a 4 Pack the suitcase, console your mother, this is a book that will not only terrify you; it may lead you straight to madness!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Subpar Horror Story, Sept. 20 2003
By 
Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
Tom Piccirilli is one horror author that makes me scratch my head in confusion. This author has won at least one Bram Stoker Award, the plum prize of those authors who write horror, for one of his novels. "The Deceased" is the third Piccirilli novel I have read, with the other two being "The Night Class" and the entertaining western "Grave Men." Of these three books, "The Deceased" ranks as the worst. Come to think of it, I wasn't that impressed by "The Night Class," either. The western novel was quite amusing, but if this author's other horror novels resemble "The Deceased" in any way, shape, or form, we are all in a lot of trouble. "The Deceased" is an unmitigated mess of a story, with a murky plot that becomes nearly impenetrable by the time the reader reaches the conclusion.
"The Deceased" is a tale about a horror writer named Jacob Maelstrom. Jacob's father Isaac was an enormously influential and famous horror author, well remembered and still beloved by legions of fans despite the fact that he died horribly some years ago. Several people wrote books about the strange incident that claimed the lives of not only Jacob's father but the rest of his family as well. Jacob survived, somehow, and still carries the memories of the day his sister took an axe and killed the family. Now, Jacob feels a call to return to the scene of the crime, to the Maelstrom mansion where it all began. In the course of Jacob's immersion into the memories of the house, he encounters the ghosts of his insane sister Rachel and his sadistic, wheelchair bound brother Joseph, along with images of his mother and father. Out in the forests and ponds surrounding the property, Jacob recalls the "muses," some type of supernatural creatures roaming around the grounds. If the dangers of the Maelstrom house threatened only Jacob, perhaps everything would turn out for the best, but two unexpected visitors in the form of a depressed graduate student and the girlfriend of Isaac Maelstrom's agent turn up at the house. This appearance by two outsiders means that other people will face the terror of Jacob's trip down memory lane.
I simply do not understand the appeal Piccirilli's books have for many horror fans. That's not to say that I think every aspect of this book fails: once again, Piccirilli does create several engrossing scenes, especially the opening experience with the fan and the flashback to a day Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph spent at a pond on the mansion's grounds. These scenes work, and work well, because Piccirilli definitely possesses a gift for the English language. Yes, this guy can write better than most authors you will come across in this genre. Regrettably, the stylistic acumen of the author fails to make up for the poorly constructed organizational structure and uninspiring characters found throughout "The Deceased." This story simply fails to satisfy on nearly every level, and its hallucinatory sequences, piled one on top of another, bored me. I don't mind reading books or watching films that like to mess with the readers head a bit, but anything that attempts to do so needs to contain something concrete for the reader to use as a touchstone. I don't think this story provides such a touchstone. Instead, the story zooms off the tracks every few pages.
I am not ready to give up on Piccirilli just yet. I know he can write stories with coherent structures (like "Grave Men"), and I am hoping some of his other horror novels contain just such an organized plot. I am beginning to think they don't, though, if many of the reviews I have recently read are true. In a way, Tom Piccirilli's horror novels remind me of Douglas Clegg, another writer who uses surrealism in his books. The only difference between the two is that Clegg makes the hallucinatory scenes secondary to his plot. With Clegg, you might scratch your head a few times, but at least you know where you are going. Piccirilli, as far as I can see, throws out everything EXCEPT confusing weirdness. "Hexes" or "A Lower Deep" will be up next for me, but not anytime soon. I need to take a break from this author's horror novels for a spell.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than it looks or sounds., Nov. 2 2002
By 
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
Everything about this novel is misleading. From the nondescript cover art and the generic title, to a back cover summary that makes it sound like a hundred other tired tales of terror. It even begins in a fairly standard way.
Jacob Maelstrom is a writer of horror novels, himself the son of a more famous writer. He finds himself drawn once again to his childhood home -- the place where, over a decade ago, his sister killed the rest of his family and herself, leaving only him alive.
It's been done before, right? It may seem so, but what follows takes the story in entirely different directions. Family secrets are revealed, other players are introduced, and the book becomes an exploration into the very nature of creativity. Where does it come from? Where does it go? When does the fictional become real? The answers lie within the old Maelstrom house, if you care to spend the night with Jacob and his uninvited guests.
Piccirilli's excellent prose goes a long way in carrying the story. I'm always happy to see someone who really knows how to use the language, rather than one who is merely adequate. THE DECEASED is a fine novel of chilling horror, suspense, and eroticism.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A HUGE disappointment..., Oct. 9 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
I was so excited to read this book because I'd heard what a wonderful author Tom Piccirilli is. I tried to like it, really tried, and I must say I appreciate his obvious skill as a wordsmith. His prose is absolutely beautiful, and as a poet, I'm sure he's marvelous. But as a writer of commercial fiction, he leaves much to be desired. I'm normally very supportive of fiction authors and I hate to criticize any author's work, but there are so many fabulous writers out there who know how to write well-plotted fiction and they're having a tough time getting published. Yet this book made it into print, which doesn't surprise me, just disappoints me. It's not a work of commercial genre fiction, but only a literary novel of an experimental, surreal nature that I'm sure some serious literary buffs would enjoy. But those who like supernatural fiction with a story behind it are mislead if they're looking for a story inside this book. I wished I'd read the other reviews here before I foolishly made this purchase.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A bit overrated, July 8 2001
By 
Shanna Flaschka (Oxford, MS USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
I must be missing something as to why this book is so well-received; I found it a bit dull. The big "secret" was a bit too obvious and too long is spent on passages that read like lucid dreams.
I am hardly a "lazy reader" as one reviewer states is the only person who would not like this book; I'm a graduate student specializing in Gothic literature.
Part of the problem is the characters are stereotypes: the moody writer with a past, the slutty secretary having an affair with her boss, the secretary's unstable friend who serves as the information gatherer (she's a graduate student wanting to interview the main character under the auspices of writing her thesis). It's all just a bit too pat.
In many horror novels, that would be fine--even preferable--but the plot depends entirely on how much the reader empathizes with the main character. Piccirilli just strings us along: is he crazy? was he the real killer? The whole book is spent just on this, without a whole lot of plot or character development.
Likewise, some of the book was pretty derivative. The incestuous behavior of the older brother and sister was like a nastier version of Flowers in the Attic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the lazy-minded, May 8 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
This is an evocative, creamy novel of madness and bizarre realms, ghosts, psychic gamesplaying and the restructuring of reality. It's definitely not for the lazy-minded, or even somebody just looking for a quick sit-down Sunday morning read. Piccirilli's narrative style is full-throttle weirdness that scoops the reader into a story that breaks rules at every turn. Jacob Maelstrom's sister goes insane one night in their secluded home and murders everyone in the house except him, including herself. Ten years later, he experiences visions and hauntings that force him to return to that place, where he must face the ghosts of his family and discover what actually happened and what really drove his sister mad. I loved the literary fireworks and bombastics here, never knowing exactly what would happen next. Though the plotline isn't linear and does loop back upon itself, I enjoyed the fact that Piccirilli was willing to take risks with form and style in order to give the reader something new. Try it if you want something that breaks the old mold.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Nice try, but failed to deliver, May 5 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
This novel is definitely not fluff-writing, I'll agree with all the 5-star reviews on that point, but I still cannot agree with the glowing reviews that it is an amazing work of horror/fantasy. First, I find Piccirilli's writing to be unnecessarily ornamented. His extreme use of similes and metaphors in the first few chapters is almost nauseating. Second, I know he is trying to create an atmosphere of distorted reality and surrealism but I found his writing to be confusing and disconnected. He wraps too many past, present, dream, reality sequences together and in a somewhat illogical order. I'm an avid reader in this genre and others, however, I still am unsure as to what exactly happened in the Maelstrom house either at the massacre or a decade later when Jacob goes back to the house. In the end, I feel he leads the reader into a surreal landscape but offers very few clues as to what is exactly happening. The novel has merit in that it seeks to raise the horror/fantasy genre to a different level than many books that are written. On the other hand, I was very happy when Piccirilli's dream-trip finally came to an end.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Contrived writing and dialogue, Dec 15 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
I must have been reading a different book than the other reviewers. I found the writing somewhat contrived and pulpish, and the dialogue makes me wonder if the author is not a hermit or monk.
Listen to this, the first paragraph of chapter five: "With the same affirmation lost lovers feel for one another's flesh, his feet fell in contact with the subtle shifting of the dirt."
Ask yourself, and be honest, when was the last time you were walking in dirt and thought, "Boy, walking in this dirt sure reminds me of the affirmation lost lovers feel for one another's flesh."? How about never (at least I haven't).
Chapter three opens with the main character's book agent throwing a hissy fit in his office becuase the main character wants to return to the "house". I am almost tempted to recommend this book just so you can read this chapter and laugh out loud at how totally unbelievable the actions of the book agent are.
In case you haven't guess, I have no idea how this books turns out, as it became difficult to finish once it burned up in my fireplace. It should have turned out with the author receiving a rejection letter in the mail, at least it would have saved me $6.50.
Other than that, I liked it. ;-)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Mix of Horror/Fantasy, Dec 1 2000
By 
Deborah A. Woehr (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
An avid reader of ghost stories, I plucked this book off the shelf as soon as I laid eyes on it. The Deceased is a combination of horror and fantasy, intertwined with mystery. Jacob Maelstrom is a popular slash and gore writer who is haunted by the gruesome murder/suice of his entire family. The story begins at a local neighborhood park, where Jacob sits and compares his work with that of his late father, Isaac. On the tenth anniversary of the slaying, Jacob sets out for the family's island home to work out the tragedy. What he finds instead are the strange creatures, whom he calls the muses, and Elizabeth, a sick little girl who calls to him from his bedroom closet. Then there is the family--brother Joseph, who hates him for no apparent reason; Rachel, who killed her family but spared Jacob; and Mom, a weak wallflower who seems resigned to her fate. In the meantime, Lisa (his agent/mentor's secretary/lover) and her fragile best friend, Katie, follow Jacob out to the house. Lisa hopes this trip will save Katie, an avid fan of Jacob's, from committing suicide over the loss of her lover and unborn child. Unbeknownst to them, the chaos has already begun inside the Maelstrom house. The women soon find out that something is heinously wrong with the house and Jacob. Both try to fight their way out as Jacob learns some new truths about his relationship with his father shortly before the climax. The Deceased is a highly original and should not be missed by horror fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth of a horror tale!!, Sept. 13 2000
By 
Paul Legerski (Corona, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Deceased (Mass Market Paperback)
When I started reading the opening chapter of THE DECEASED, I couldn't tell which, if any, of the characters I was introduced to were alive or dead...or in some other state. The second chapter explains a few things about who is and isn't alive. After that, the novel goes down a vortex of violence, insanity, intensity and just plain vileness. This opus is about journeys, redemption and confronting the never-dead past. It is literate at the same time it is violent; clear as the mud some of the characters wallow in. This is not a linear point A to Point B novel. Hell no! Piccirilli serves up some great characters, tosses them a ton of plot and masterfully lets the characters deal with it all to end in a satisfying conclusion. The story is about Jacob Maelstrom, an author following in his famous father's footsteps. Both write horror books. Jacob is a survivor of a massacre at his parents' house in Stonethrow, an island unto itself. Jacob's father Isaac brought his whole family (wife, wheelchair bound brother Joseph, sister Rachel and Jacob) there to escape the fandom his writing has wrought. An attempted kidnapping of Rachel was the last straw for Isaac. Upon moving in, isolation lends a hand in turning this family onto madness. Jacob's mom is non confrontational, brother and sister are way too close to be healthy, and Jacob is a loner trying to fit in. He's the Third, as his siblings call him, the youngest of three children. Also in the plot is the agent of both writers, Bob Wakely, his assistant (and concubine) Lisa. Katie is Lisa's sister, a huge Maelstrom devotee and, oh yeah, just out from the mental hospital ('The Ding-a-ling wing', as Picirrilli puts it). Katie is in the hospital for a horrific event in her past that she can't come to terms with. The house on Stonethrow is a place with a checkered history to say the least. 10 years ago the Maelstroms were victims of Rachel's ax attack...decapitating all except Jacob, who survived in a closet. Rachel's final act was her suicide by the same blade. Jacob has been renting out the house these past years to other writers of horror who live in the house for inspiration. Nobody's ever really heard the whole story, so on the anniversary, Jacob goes back to face his past. Katie is taken to the house by Lisa. Katie and Jacob share traumatic pasts and, therefore, a strong bond. How strong is the test. Seems Jacob's family is coming back for the last surviving member of their clan. Piccirilli's knack for making all of this believable is genius. On one page he talks about Lisa's pregnancy, the next part deals with Jacob seeing someone familiar in a closet. The author switches back and forth between reality and insanity. Add in a touch of Alice In Wonderland-like fantasy and you have wood nymphs, aquatic angels, imaginary (or real) friends and enemies. I mean when is a turtle just a turtle? Overall the narrative shook me up emotionally and physically, dealing with real issues in a literate and intelligent way, not condescendingly or shallowly. Tom Piccirilli, with THE DECEASED, has added to his legacy as the genre's most intense, vivid and satisfying writers in the horror/dark mystery genre. Highest of recommendations.
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The Deceased
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