21 December 2007

Works as a ghost story and a travel novel, albeit one with a scant plot

The Daemon in Our Dreams
John F. Rooney
Senneff House Publishers, 2007

Opening with the cold-blooded assassination of three people in a London hotel bar by a clean-shaven Indian man, the novel outlines the prequel to this seemingly senseless triple killing. Three travelers, strangers connected only by a shared Asian itinerary, have each begun to have eerie, frightening dreams involving a clean-shaven Indian man. As it becomes apparent to each of these individuals that the others are also haunted by the same man, each begins to see the figure from their dreams manifest in broad daylight. As they make their way from one port of call to another, this man, whom they have come to call "Ramesh," is somehow able to keep pace with them. His appearances grow stranger and more frightening, and the mounting fears of those being haunted begin to wear on their traveling companions. Of course, it is not a spoiler to acknowledge that this "daemon," this Ramesh, is in fact the same clean-shaven Indian assassin who guns them down in the beginning and at the end of the novel. And in the end, I was still just as clueless in regard to why he did it as I was in the first chapter.

That is probably the books biggest drawback. Other reviewers have noted it, and I can only concur: the novel's plot is not what it could be, given such an interesting premise. This is not to say that the book is a loss. On the contrary, the novel succeeds in two ways. The book works as an updated 19th-century ghost story, with successive manifestations of the apparition (and the concomitant suggestion that those being visited are just going mad) serving to slowly build an atmosphere of creepiness. The novel is also successful travel fiction, with humorous dialogues interspersed with knowing descriptions of different sites in South and Souteast Asia. Reading the book really brought back memories of traveling in Bhutan and Thailand.

I wouldn't normally have read this book, because ghost stories and travel novels aren't usually on my reading list. Having done so at the request of the author, I am glad I did. Although the plot could have been more fully fleshed out (along with the motivations of the ghostly assassin), the author showed a talent for writing engaging and creepy material, and this book definitely held my attention for most of its 285 pages.

(This review was originally written on May 1, 2007.)

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