A John Constantine story from Ian Rankin illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera. Constantine is bribed to take part in a reality TV show, “Haunted Mansion”, apparently for money, but actually because one of the women involved looks like someone who was a cannibal’s victim whom Constantine failed to save. He enters the house, which has cameras in every room, hidden mikes and a “throne room” where contestants can speak to the producers. The outer doors are locked and then only way out is to find the secret room. The first contest to find it is the winner. The house is allegedly haunted, but contestants have been seeing things the TV production company haven’t caused, such as a burning man, an elderly woman (dead), syringes, a dead sister and something that might be a bird with a sharp beak. A modern take on a haunted house mystery.
Problem is, any reader remotely familiar with John Constantine (via novels or film) will work out what the twist is long before Constantine figures it out. And then the story hits the doldrums. I didn’t care whether any of the self-obsessed contestants escape the house or not and Constantine didn’t seem remotely bothered by the under-developed cannibalism sub-plot so I wasn’t either. All the dramatic tension dissipated as soon as Constantine entered the house. The only thing that kept me reading was that Constantine was in character and the artwork – effective black inkwork that held just the right balance between detail and blank space and gave the characters more depth than the dialogue.
A John Constantine story that shares a title with a Bauhaus song, “Trying so hard to find what was right// I came upon your room it stuck into my head/ We leapt into bed degrading even lice/ You took delight in taking down all my shielded pride/ Until exposed became my darker side// Puckering up and down some avenue of sin.” I should have loved it but was disappointed.
Run of reviews recently: I’ve been running children’s poetry workshops and judging a children’s poetry competition.