I have just completed reading the book House co-authored by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. Even though the book is categorized as "Christian Fiction", it is plainly in the horror genre. Actually, now that I have read several books in the Christian fiction category, I'm still not entirely sure what this means. There is still plenty of sin, immorality, darkness, hatred, and sin (yes I know I listed it twice). I guess it usually means that there is at least some mention of God or that there is some "supernatural" tie-in in the story. But I digress.
The story starts with a married couple, Jack and Stephanie (aka the good couple), who have recently lost their daughter, taking a shortcut through a sparsely populated section of Alabama on their way to a marriage counseling appointment. Along the way we are introduced to a strange policemen who forces them to detour down an isolated backwoods road. On this road, their tires are shredded on a spike strip near a quaint and charming, if oddly placed, inn. Upon arriving, they run into another couple, Randy and Leslie (aka the bad couple), whose car met a similar fate. Soon thereafter, they meet the inbred, circus folks who run the inn. At this point we understand why this novel is called "House". An insane, demonic killer possesses this inn, which is almost like a living creature. He also controls the circus family. He has set up a game where nobody can leave the inn until a dead body is offered up from among the four guests. If by dawn no body has been offered, then they all must die. The two couples fall into survival mode, but as their deadline gets close, they start to turn on each other. As the story unfolds, we meet another captive in the inn, a young girl named Stephanie. We do not know until the end if she is really another prisoner, or whether she is part of the wicked game.
Let me say that I found the book to be a very enjoyable read. However, the basic plot elements offered nothing new or outside the box, but they did provide a solid base for a story. The book, which was less than 400 pages in length, could have been improved with a bit more time developing the characters to allow us to get to know them, understand them, and develop a reason to care about them. Jack seems to quickly ally himself with Leslie, with almost a physical attraction. Randy seems like a complete jerk. Stephanie seems like an unloveable air-head. The strange policeman who shows up at the beginning and the end of the story is not well developed, and it is not clear what he is supposed to represent. Finally, the story, which is an allegory about Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, without spot or blemish, had a somewhat abrupt, forced, and not fully satisfying ending. It makes me wonder how two successful authors with different styles and approaches really collaborate together. Is the output of the sum better than that of the individual parts?