Sequels to horror novels are an odd breed. They have advantages if you liked the first book, but they can miss the sense of trepidation you get when you read a "new" book. After all, if you have already met the big-bad you know what it can do - and where's the fun in that?
Here, the big-bad is a shy, mentally ill young woman, whose alternate personality is an intelligent, driven, man-hating murderer. At the end of the first book (Agnes Hahn, Medallion Press 2008, 978-1933836454) she'd been caught by the joint efforts of Jason Powers, a newspaper reporter and Art Bransome, the local sheriff.
This book starts with Agnes (and her alternate personality Lilin) living in a mental asylum (the "Imola" of the title). However, and somewhat inevitably, Lilin takes control. She escapes and sets of to gain revenge on the man who killed the real Lilin, and caused Agnes's madness - their father. And she's not above a bit of casual mayhem along the way.
On the face of it, this book is slow to get going. Over one hundred pages in and Agnes is still a patient in the asylum. This kind of thing is okay if you are writing a typical Stephen King length novel, but this is barely half King's normal length.
But for that it reads well. The inmates in Imola, and their afflictions are presented well. There's a good mix of lunacy - not just cell after cell of Hannibal Lector wannabes. It's interesting but somewhat overdone. Half the number of pages could have set the scene just as effectively.
There are odd interludes of unnecessary back-story. The few pages bringing Jason Powers' ex-wife into the story are fairly pointless and serve only to interrupt the narrative. Likewise Powers' brother felt little more than a distraction, a forced insertion into the plot to provide a lead on Agnes/Lilin's trail that could have been introduced as easily without the family angst angle.
There are also many stereotypical aspects to this story - exaggerated by its sequel nature. Linked twins, a schizophrenic killer who debates her actions amongst herself, sex and murder intertwined, cop/reporter
For its faults though this is an entertaining read. In many ways this is because of Satterlie's comfortable writing style and understated violence. He leaves the really gory stuff up to our imaginations.
He plays well on some of our fears. Escaped lunatics feature in many urban myths. Similarly to always worrying if there is something in the darkness, we fear insanity and the acts that the insane are capable of performing.
It's not a book to set your world on fire, but it will entertain. And at the end of the day that's not a bad thing.
Richard Satterlie - Imola
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