Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jack-in-the-Box by William Johnstone

by William Johnstone
1986, Zebra Books

Jack-In-The-Box centers around nine-year-old Nora and is part Omen knock off (666 birthmark, ability to cause accidents around her), part Exorcist rip-off (she does the owl imitation three times and spits out slime twice), and all Johnstone.

Nora's father Phillip and brother Phil mistrust young Nora, but her mother Jeanne protects her, though she has secrets of her own.  Phillip is compelled to buy Nora an evil Jack-in-the-Box which plays the funeral march and has human teeth.  Like the rockinghorse in Rockinghorse, it doesn't do much more than show up on the cover.

The box was used by a Nazi officer in the concentration camp, though it's evil is more satanic than Naziish.  Phillip learns that his daughter is either possessed or born pure evil, and works with a child psychologist and priest to try an exorcise her.

Nora has the ability to control minds and forces Phillip into being an abusive father so that young Phil is forced to shoot and kill him - pretty gutsy to kill off the main character half way through.  Respect.

The mantle is picked up by Phillip's law firm buddy Sam, who is also bonded to Phillip by the mutual gang rape they committed in 'Nam.  He proceeds to convince local and NYPD law enforcement to help - turns out it doesn't take much convincing to get a cop to agree to murder a nine-year-old girl.  Johnstone continues his trend of recruiting extra law enforcement character halfway through the third act, this time adding no less than 11.  Sam kills a group of neo-nazis that are tailing him, but Johnstone abandons this angle - pure coincidence, unrelated to the satanic possessions.

Meanwhile, Nora is prancing around in an SS outfit she can materialize and mind controlling her family and neighbors to commit mass murder.  Here the book kicks into high, with Phil spree-killing a whole house of teenagers partying to "rock-punk" music and Jeanne seducing and slaughtering a neighbor couple.

Sam and company execute their master plan, which is to enter the house two at a time and get slaughtered.  Literally, every half hour a new shift of two cops enter the house, one gets seduced to the dark side by Nora's mind control and splatters the other's brains against the wall.  After three or four shifts of this Phillip's ghost distracts Nora, Sam slaps some chains on her, and she somehow loses her powers and is sent to a secret sanitarium where failed exorcisms go.  The end.

Some great slaughtering and rambling non-narrative, up until Johnstone has to write an ending.  No sodomy in this one, but there is child rape - this time a child raping a grown man.

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