Ectos begins with what has come to be a contemporary stereotype of writing - foreplay. But as the words pass by in an expected - and inevitably enticing - anticipation of sexual steam, few very misplaced lines begin to intervene. The prologue does not reach a climax but leaves us tantalizingly teased on more than just a sexual dimension. And that is a very good thing, for the tone is thus set for the story that is about to follow.
The first chapters take us dangerously close to a successful exploitation and murder of a pretty young jogger at the hands of a psychopath. But we are inches away from the dagger-skin communion when something very unexpected happens. On the face of it, Mr. Newhouse did not really need to play around with the storytelling here, for the plot itself is so mysterious. But he does and in doing so within the very first tenth of this book, he delivers the lesson: do not presume.
A case in point would be the (main) ghost. We meet a very different variety here - one coming to terms with amnesia (!) and sweetly spilling out an infatuation as he converses. The fallout is ironical - While it makes for a smooth read for us, it must have been anything but for the author scripting it. This is worth pointing out. To deal with psychology requires one to linger more in the minds of the characters than in the physical universe. Thoughts tend to go haywire, and need an accurate description to truly deliver the protagonist’s psyche and chain of thought. It is seldom clear. And to unjumble it, therefore, takes some doing. Mr. Mark does this effortlessly despite the fact that his lead role belongs to Shelly - a “her”. Credit where it’s due.
As the pages turn, the mystery expands as both suspicion and sympathy are cast on all four major characters we come to observe. Amidst this, an inspiring thought is delivered: “If we believe in ghosts, we believe in the after-life - and therefore it behooves us to live as righteously as we can. It's a very convenient antidote to our innate criminal instincts if we believe we are facing grim punishment.” So is that the author’s central motive?
It seems the author is playing with much more wonderful intent - to gift us with an entertaining experience. It is clear by the end of the book - once we are past ghosts, goriness, an out-of-the-box show of evil and a fitting climax. Mr. Mark takes us through this journey with more humour and niceness than the weight of mysteries it hooks us to, and in the end, leaves us with the latter being more of a fun ride to look forward to in Ectos 2. That’s right. And I certainly expect to see more of this series.
As one character notes, “We are about to enter the world of American occultism.” What he doesn’t say is that we are about to do so with caramel popcorn. So sit back and enjoy the skill with which it is served to us.
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