A Prison Without Locks
A Prison Without Locks by David Ruggerio begins with the fateful words, “What frightens you?” They are spoken by Marlene Bourke-White, a journalist relaying a story told to her by her colleague Tammy from the small town of Wawarsing. Tammy has told Marlene a story that sent chills down her spine, and Marlene must write it down.
Located in upstate New York and near the place where The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set, Wawarsing is a strange town with a high number of anemia cases and odd disappearances. The story begins with a local fisherman named Bobby, who finds a small boy standing under a waterfall. The boy seems lost, but the sounds coming from the pale and ghost-like figure frighten Bobby so much that he flees back to town to tell the sheriff. From this jumping-off point, Ruggerio introduces a cast of characters with all the quirks and personalities of a small town. There is Father Shea, the local priest, who lives in Martha Breadwell’s boarding house. There are Theo and his wife, Barbara, who is having an affair with the sheriff. Everyone in Wawarsing seems to know about the affair except for Theo. The list of characters goes on and on, from the creepy to the funny, and they all help bring Wawarsing to life.
It soon becomes clear that Dr. Pretorius is the one who brought the evil to the small town. Originally from the Appalachians, Dr. Pretorius came to Wawarsing by way of Haiti, where he learned more about the dark arts than about healing medicine. The doctor lives in a haunted mansion, and he is a trusted yet mysterious figure in the town. He has secretly been experimenting on his patients, something he did in Haiti. When the sheriff and Father Shea find the pale boy in the falls, they bring him to Dr. Pretorius, thinking that he could help the boy. But Dr. Pretorius is the reason the boy is a monster…
Ruggerio gives us a scary and hair-raising story about the thin division between life and death in his new horror novel, A Prison Without Locks. He gives a nod to classic tales such as Dracula and Frankenstein. The plot is fast-moving and easy to follow, although there are a number of quick-changing perspective jumps due to the large number of characters. However, the characters are likable and the plot comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion involving a showdown between good and evil on Halloween.
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