Book Review: The Devil on the Staircase by Joe Hill

TitleThe Devil on the Staircase

AuthorJoe Hill

Genre: Short Story, Horror

Publisher: Published in Stories: All New Tales (William Morrow)

Published: June 15, 2010

Page Amount: (?)

Blurb From Goodreads (Dark Tome): Joe Hill introduces us to Cassie, who is forced to read books to Mr. Gussy – an old crank who runs a bookshop of the strange and the weird – as penance for pulling a girl’s hair out at school. Mr. Gussy has warned Cassie of a book among books – The Dark Tome – and Cassie decides to open up the cover and see what it’s all about. She is enchanted by the tale of a man who used to live in a village in Italy in the late 19th century. But a series of events, a crooked staircase, and a glowing red gate, have welcomed him to stairs he has never known before – ones that lead him straight to hell.

Why Read: Spooky and it isn’t even October – what kind of nonsense is this, you ask? Such is what happens when I take a moment to explore a new podcast “The Dark Tome” – and find myself in an unexpected Joe Hill shory story completely via audio. In the desperate search to find something for the transatlantic flight, I sought refuge with a new podcast. Somehow I ended up listening to a fairly entertaining short story about books that suck people in (literally).

Review: If we’re mentioning expectations, mine are not exactly high for Joe Hill, son of Steven King. After having read Fireman, I was dissatisfied and decided then and there that I would not be reading his other horror novels (although they are supposedly good). Imagine my surprise when I end up listening to an audio version of a 2010 short story Hill wrote. Admittedly, it was good. Main character Cassie finds herself in another universe brought on by the Dark Tome – and finds that reading isn’t necessarily as safe as previously thought. Lucky for Joe Hill that anything having to do with “books about books,” is my wheelhouse – so I was suckered into listening for the brief hour or so that it took to follow Cassie’s story.

Whenever authors attempt to follow Inkheart into the world of literary (actual)realism, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, it’s such a fantastic plot and the idea that there are mini universes swirling around in each paperback or hardcover is tempting. On the other… it can be *very* if not obnoxiously so, cliche. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised. Casse can be a bit irritating to read, given her youth – but it was incredibly thrilling to read about the device (no spoilers) that Hill created. I especially adored the call to something in actual history (I am trying so hard not to spoil anything right now, it’s ridiculous).

I’m not sure I would read this, however. The reason why I’m giving the novel 3.7 stars is because I didn’t like the style in which it was written. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, and the audio version certainly added ambience for me. The problem is simply that sentences seem to go on for too long, and stylistically – this story wasn’t for me. If you are more interested in plot than structure, then I would highly recommend this, especially if you’re looking for a quick jeepers-creepers moment in your November. And really… who isn’t?

Rating: 3.7/5 Stars

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