THE HAUNTED by Bentley Little (2012 Signet / 389 pp / mmp)
Julian and Claire Perry, along with their young son and teenage daughter, move to a better neighborhood in New Mexico. They love the new house, although each one begins to have issues with it, stemming from similar nightmares they share as well as sightings of a creepy old man in the basement.
Each family members then becomes haunted in different ways: daughter Megan begins receiving perverted (and then deadly) messages on her cell phone with no return number; son James partakes in a game of Old Maid where the Maid becomes all to real...and threatening, and for some reason finds himself craving dirt as a snack (!). Julian begins having unusual sexual desires for Claire, and starts seeing the man in the basement outside of the house (it's later learned he's a homeless man who had died in their basement). And Claire--haunted by the death of a child--begins to research their house and community at a local library. Of course what she finds is anything but positive.
The first half of THE HAUNTED ranks within the top five of Little's scariest novels: he gets the goosebumps going, and despite the familiarity of a haunted house tale, manages to get under the reader's skin and pull out a few surprises (especially when we learn what this thing is that's driving the Perry family crazy). But it seems as if Little has held back here: readers expecting things to get as demented as in past novels may be a bit disappointed. His macabre edge has taken a holiday this time out and left me wanting more. Things DO begin to head in that direction, but not to the extent of novels such as THE MAILMAN or THE RESORT.
Little's 22nd novel blends the classic story line of his older novels with the emotion of his more recent experiments, resulting in a horror tale that--while satisfying--may leave some of the author's fans wanting more.
A slightly above average outing, worth it for the aforementioned first-half's chill factor.