After reading and enjoying Sarah Langan's most recent novel, Audrey's Door, I decided to try her first novel, The Keeper. I didn't like it as much as Audrey's Door, but it wasn't bad for a first novel.
There is something wrong with Susan Marley. The residents of the small town of Bedford, Maine cross the street when she approaches and blame her for all their problems; especially for the terrifying things that dominate their dreams. But it's not just Susan, the whole town is haunted thanks to its sinister past and dark secrets.
I've read a lot of comparisons of this novel to Stephen King. It seems every good horror novel is compared to King (especially ones that take place in Maine) and the author is heralded as "the next Stephen King." But The Keeper is probably the novel I have read that comes closest to King. Langan has descriptive prose (which can at times bog down the story), a few deep characters and TONS of one-dimensional characters who only make a brief appearance, and a dramatic ending where many people die, making up for the rest of the book being slow.
The plot of The Keeper was unique, involving a whole town being haunted instead of the usual house.
The pacing felt odd. For the most part the novel was slow, but for a few chapters an exciting plot development would take place and the pace would be fast, and then go back to being slow. It wasn't really a gradual build-up, it was more like short bursts of excitement and then back to being slow. About halfway through the book, a part titled "Resurrection", which should have been the most exciting part judging by the title, was actually the slowest part and it took me a long time to get through it. I almost gave up on the novel, but I'm glad I got through it because the finale was exciting, gory and had a frantic pace.
The atmosphere was dark and eerie. Imagining the town where every year it rains for seven days straight, gave me chills. And a brief scene when the main character is chased by a monster through a cemetery creeped me out. I was disappointed when the monster didn't make another appearance in the novel.
There are several characters in the novel, the main ones being very well-developed. The secondary characters mostly just provided the gory death scenes and made the town well-rounded and seem more real. Langan even had the ability to make Susan Marley, the supposed villain of the novel, likable.
The Keeper is an interesting novel despite its slow pace and if you can get through the boring parts, you'll be rewarded with the thrilling finale.