I stumbled backward into this book through Blood Kin, Tem's most recent novel. The book caught my eye at the bookstore, but I saw that the mighty praise I saw on the cover referred to Deadfall Hotel, Tem's previous novel, so I figured that might be the best place to start. I'm glad I did, because I found an eerie novel with an effective theme.
In the book, Richard Carter has recently lost his wife to a house fire, and he's been looking for work to support himself and his eleven year-old daughter. He stumbles across a place called the Deadfall Hotel, the proprieter of which is looking for a new manager. Richard applies and is accepted for hire, but he sowly realizes that the Deadfall Hotel has a unique clientele, one that can be dangerous to both Richard and his daughter Serena. That his daughter is also coming of age further complicates Richard's relationship with the hotel.
The heart of the novel, though, is the relationship between Richard and his daughter. Early on in the novel, Richard acknowledges that he is uncertain how to deal with her, and as she grows up and is exposed to the dangers of the hotel, he becomes even more uncertain. The hotel and its dangers represent the stages of Serena's growing up, along with the emotional uncertainty that comes along with it. It gave what could have been a standard horror novel more depth, and even made it feel more literary, more important. Given that this starts off with the impression that this is just going to be another horror novel, it was refreshing to see it take on this theme.
Another thing I really liked about this book was that I never understood how the hotel came to be. It's not necessary to know, but that mystery creates a curiosity that drives the acceptance of a lot of the otherworldly things that happen there. It's like you pay attention when something strange happens, because you figure you might be getting more information about the hotel. You never get the full picture, but more and more you find that the pieces are coming together.
I can see why this doesn't get higher ratings that it currently receives -- it's not exactly a page-turner, and the ending is somewhat of a mystery to me still -- but it's a shame that it's not rated better. It's a well told story with a very human element, and I'd like to see it get more support. Myself, I'm eager to see how Tem's recent novel will hold up against this.