John Saul has a long history of scaring people silly with best-selling novels like Suffer the Children, Nightshade, Black Creek Crossing and a host of others. He has found his niche atop the peak of the thriller/suspense genre, and his latest book, Perfect Nightmare, is sure to chill and thrill his diehard fans and make him a few new ones.
This disturbing and tense page-turner tells the story of an evil presence that lurks at real estate open houses, seeking out its next victims in a game of horror that will result in the disappearance of three women, including teenager Lindsay Marshall, who has just discovered her parents intend to move her to the city and away from her high-school friends. When Lindsay vanishes without a trace, the police figure she just ran away in rebellion, but her mother, Kara, senses something is not right, especially since Lindsay had earlier told her parents that someone had been in her room during an open house to sell their home, someone that the girl felt was not quite well-intentioned. Her parents just blew off her concerns.
Too bad they didn’t listen to their daughter, because Lindsay hasn’t run away at all. She has instead become the latest victim of a madman who turns young women into playthings, all because of a twisted and sick dark secret from his tormented past. But Lindsey finds she is not alone in the secret hideaway of this sadistic and twisted killer, and soon her mother is the only one she can ever hope will find her. But will her mother find her in time?
Perfect Nightmare has a bit of a “Silence of the Lambs” feel, with young women being tortured and mutilated by a sinister person harboring his own black inner demons. It also reminded me of Dean Koontz’s Hideaway and several other novels in recent years with “women being kidnapped and tortured” plotlines that seem rampant in the suspense, thriller and crime genres - even though in Saul’s latest effort, he does actually manage to make the perpetrator somewhat sympathetic in the end. But I did get the sense of “been there, done that” as far as the plot goes. Kids and women always seem to end up locked up in somebody’s basement.
Nevertheless, Saul is masterful at keeping the suspense moving, and this book is not one you can read in multiple sittings. It’s a real late-into-the-night chiller that will have you never trusting anyone with your children’s safety again, and maybe even avoiding open houses for the rest of your life! And it drives home the point that we just may want to start listening to our kids when they tell us things. Many times, they are telling the truth.