Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Maddening/Playmates by Andrew Neiderman

The Maddening
by Andrew Neiderman
Originally as Playmates 1987 Berkley Books

A cliche wrapped in padding.  A woman's car breaks down and she's forced to take refuge at a creepy house with her daughter - a premise so hokey it was the stuff of parodies from at least the 1930s.

The house is occupied by a woman insane with grief over her lost child, her sociopathic husband, and their intellectually disabled daughter.  Usually these things build up, but we're in a hurry, so we go straight to locked rooms and chains around the ankles.

The missing woman's husband looks for her and does a better job than the cops until he finds the farmhouse and gets tossed down a well.  He spends several chapters crawling his way back up while the two girls play and the farmer rapes the mother.

Dad crawls out of the well and attempts a rescue, with a local cop swooping in to save the day at the last minute.  An uneventful epilogue, the end.

I was shocked to find this came out like a month before Stephen King's Misery, as this is a pale shadow of it.  No suspense, no tension, just pages and pages of back story and repetition.  There's an entire half chapter of the cop recapping the investigation to his wife.  The text was so repetitive I wasn't sure if I swiped the right direction on my tablet - you can flip a handful of pages and it's still the same thought.

I don't find myself yelling at characters in books for being stupid, but everything here depends on people making bad choices.  The mother is chained to the leg of her bed - I don't care how heavy it is, it's just a damn bed, you can lift one leg up two inches (which she finally does).  The farmer knows the husband is alive in the well and figures he'll dump some dirt on him later.  Dad stuns the farmer not once but twice and limps away without finishing him off.

The last half alternates between the events at the farmhouse and the local detective poking around the area, with the cop showing up to prevent the husband from having to finish a fight.  The problem - the events at the farmhouse are in the middle of the night and the detective is walking around in the middle of the day.

I stuck it out because the cover deserves it, and because online reviews talk about how creepy and disturbing it is - maybe for Goodreads folks, but not around these parts.  The one nice thing I can say about it is it handled the farmer's backstory well with his history of mental illness and child abuse.  Neiderman wrote Pin and was VC Andrews ghostwriter, so he has some background in creepy family histories.

For a better treatment of the same general premise, try Satan's Daughers or the aforementioned Misery.  This was made into a film with Burt Reynolds and Angie Dickinson, of all people, which from the plot synopsis has about ten time as much "stuff happening" as the book - and if you want to see Stroker Ace raping the girlfriend from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, this is your film.

Available for Kindle from Amazon.

Click here to read and excerpt.

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