Burnt Offerings

Robert Marasco
Burnt Offerings Cover

Burnt Offerings


So, I've read this book before. I didn't realize that until I went onto Goodreads to log it as my current read, and I saw that I had read it back in 1999. When I uploaded all my stats to Goodreads in 2010, I gave it two stars, probably because I didn't remember enough about it to remember liking it, which probably meant I thought it was OK, at best. I say that because I remember nothing about this book. I figured I would come across scenes and imagery that were familiar, but no, I may as well have been reading this for the first time. Given how much my tastes have changed in regards to horror fiction, though, maybe that's a good thing.

Marasco does a great job establishing this book. Within the first few chapters, he creates his three main characters -- a husband and wife with a son -- creates their main conflict -- they hate the city and want to find a place to get away -- and establishes the setting -- the city's noisome, overpopulated state, contrasted with the quiet getaway they seek. The plot centers around the three of them as they find the perfect, placid place for them to spend their summer, but like most offers that seem too good to be true, the manor where they find themselves comes with strings attached.

With this book, I realized I need to stop reading forewords until after I've finished the book, especially when the foreword is an appreciation by another author. I like reading them, since they usually give some further insight into the story, but they tend to spoil parts of the story. Stephen Graham Jones doesn't give anything of the story away, but he does tell me a bit more than I needed to know before I even started reading the book itself.

With that in mind, I don't plan on speaking much to the plot, since it's something worth discovering. Marasco built up the tension just perfectly, creating a feeling of inevitability to the circumstances, and finding ways to convey the horror of small, simple things. If you're into dark fantasy or horror, though, this is a fine example of the genre (though you should skip the foreword until you've finished the story).

This is the second book published by Valancourt I've read, and as much as I liked them both, I now have a new publisher to pay attention to. Burnt Offerings isn't the kind of horror where you'll find graphic descriptions of dismemberments, nor is it the kind of quiet horror Charles L. Grant mastered. Instead, it lives somewhere in between, telling us a disquieting story of obsession and sacrifice against the backdrop of an unusual house.