Tuesday, November 22, 2016
THE TOWER AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Brad Strickland
Anyway...The Tower at the End of the World is Strickland's sequel to the first Barnavelt novel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls. It opens with the Barnavelts being invited by Rose Rita's Grandpa Galway to visit him on an island in Lake Superior, where he's house-sitting for a wealthy Navy friend, for a holiday full of sailing and exploring. It all sounds good, until Uncle Jonathan is attacked in the house's basement and the long-shut door in the coal bin, that leads to heaven-knows-what, is pried open. Although there are disquieting footprints, nothing is taken, and they're willing to dismiss it as a burglar.
On their island holiday, Lewis is given a letter with some macabre drawings on it, Mrs. Zimmermann, an accomplished witch, feels something is off about it, but can't put her finger on it. Meanwhile, the crew are sailing on the lake and come across an island where none was before, an island decorated by bizarre sculptures and a tall, sinister tower. They explore briefly, but are too freaked out to stay.
Back in New Zebedee, Lewis has a number of frightening experiences, including an encounter with a Japanese evil spirit, the Kuchisake Onna, or Wide-Mouthed Woman. It's obvious that Lewis is being targeted by some supernatural force....but who? and why?
It turns out that Isaac and Selenna Izard, who had built the house the Barnavelts now live in, and who had planned to destroy the world, had a son, Ishmael Izard, and he plans to not only get revenge on Lewis but complete his parents' work. The team has to work to not only save Lewis from being devoured by supernatural beasties, but also locate and destroy the new Doomsday Clock.
It's entertaining for fans of classic horror and ghost stories; part of the plot is (obviously) based on "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James, including a mention of the evil wizard Karswell. There's also an amusing reference to real-life crackpot mystic Hans Horbiger, who believed the universe was made of ice.
There's a lot of good teamwork here, with Lewis and Rose Rita being open with the adults about what's going on, and more trust evident. The solution to the story is a little obvious, but maybe it's because I'm so steeped in esoteric lore that the minute I read that the mysterious isle was called Gnomon Island I immediately knew the nature of the new Doomsday Clock.
Still, it was a good read and definitely one of the better ones. It was sadly lacking any Edward Gorey art; Gorey had passed away and further books would be without his special style.