Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Press)-The occult, ghosts, and shades of The Thing come together with very creepy results in Dead Ringers. Tess and Nick Devlin may be divorced, but they maintain a good relationship, especially for the benefit of their seven year old daughter Maddie, and Tess is surprised when she gets a glimpse of Nick out in public at a time when he was supposed to be on vacation with his new girlfriend. When she approaches him, he claims not to know who she is, and Tess has no choice but to brush it off as coincidence. Yet when she and her best friend Lili discover that there is a famous artist who could Lili’s identical twin, that coincidence theory gets a bit thinner. Meanwhile, journalist Frank Lindburgh has been chained to a pipe in his basement, while a man with his face takes over his life, bit by bit, and Audrey Pang, a specialist in the occult, finds herself having very dark thoughts about her beloved wife. Eventually this group of people must come together again to fight an evil that wears their faces. Then there’s that blind man that keeps crossing their path, who they’ve dubbed the Raggedy Man.
Soon we find out that they’re all connected to the discovery of dead bodies at the restoration of the Otis Harrison House in Boston, where they found a horrific tableaux in the basement: dead bodies and a device called a psychomanteum, a structure filled with mirrors and believed to have otherworldly properties. They thought it was dismantled, and they certainly never could have predicted the horror that really took place in that basement. Golden combines what makes the best ghost stories work, with a bit of old fashioned occult history and turns it into a chilling narrative that begs to be read in one sitting. Most people have heard some form of the idea that we all have doppelgangers, but what if those doubles wanted to take over your life? This plays on the characters’ deep insecurities and even makes a few wonder if the doubles deserve their lives more than they do. It’s a neat twist that gives the story real depth and resonance. Frank, who is an alcoholic, is one of the best examples of this. He’s been making excuses for his alcoholism and lack of drive for years, but as he watches the other Frank get the job he wants, the life he wants, it serves to give him a strength that he never know that he had. The final showdown is a humdinger, and the last chapter will surely raise eyebrows. Nicely done.