I suspect I'm going to be the odd-man out on this one for a bit...
I'd been looking forward to Widow's Point for a while, having ordered the limited edition hardcover (which is beautiful, by the way), and then bought the Kindle edition for reading. I'm not disappointed in these purchases, mind you, but I also think I may have had my hopes raised a bit too high by all the advance praise. This particular book has a lot of love from so many other readers that I know, interact with, and trust, so this is probably just a case of 'it's not you, it's me.'
Richard Chizmar, co-writing here with his son Billy, can most certainly write, there's no doubt about that. Everything I've read of Richard's work leaves me content knowing that he has talent and style to spare. His success in the wake of Gwendy's Button Box, where he shared a co-writing credit with the one and only Stephen King, is well-deserved and much-earned, make no mistake about it.
Widow's Point is certainly very well written, but it also treads a heck of a lot of well-worn ground.
Thomas Livingston is a famous author who's made his bread writing nonfiction accounts of encounters with the supernatural. His latest endeavor sees him spending a weekend in solitary confinement within the mysterious lighthouse Widow's Point, named such due to the number of lives and ship's lost off the rocky Nova Scotia coast it's situated upon. The lighthouse has enough history to make it an urban legend, and more than its fair share of dead families and curious visitors lying in its shadows.
Framed as a found footage narrative (I swear, I've read at least three found footage stories over the last year in various anthologies...), the Chizmar's recount Livingston's weekend by way of audio transcriptions and video description. This gives us an intimate point-of-view and we experience Widow's Peak directly through the eyes and words of Livingston himself as he's physically and psychologically put through his paces over the course of a July weekend.
If any of this sounds even the least bit familiar, well, that's because it is. Widow's Point is a capable story with a strong in-your-face narration, but it lacks any shred of originality. If you've read any previous haunted house story, you've pretty well read Widow's Point. You know the beats and you know the encounters, and it all occurs according to spec, each segment coming in right on time like a well-engineered train schedule. This sucker is one trope-heavy novella, and each one gets trotted out with unsurprising regularity in machine-like fashion. There's no surprises to be had, no shocks to the system. By the time I hit the end of the book, it was with a shrug and a mental, "That's it, huh?"
At the end of the day, this is a well written ghost story, but it's made hollow by its familiarity. On the other hand, the limited edition hardcover sporting Francois Vaillancourt nearly-monochromatic artwork of skulls in the sky surrounding Widow's Peak is gorgeous and a nice addition to my bookshelf. I certainly cannot complaint about that.
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