Review: Schrader's Chord

So I read Schrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds over the weekend. It’s a horror novel about cursed records that open a portal to the land of the dead. I’m a music nerd with a soft spot for stories about forbidden texts (or, in this case, records) filled with dangerous arcane knowledge. So this should be right up my alley.

The first half works really well, as we meet some winning characters, unearth some complex family dynamics, and observe the the terrible effects when people are dumb enough to do that thing you’re yelling at them not to do.

So far so good, but, for my taste, this one lost its way in the second half. I think this is a problem a lot of horror novels have—horror just works so much better in the short form that a lot of horror novels turn into action/adventure novels in the second half. So as our heroes try to fix what they messed up, we get some suspense, although not a lot—this is another problem with horror at novel length. It’s annoying in the extreme if you kill every character after we spend 400 pages rooting for them (lookin’ at you, The Ruins!) But knowing the author is too kind to do that to readers (Leeds reveals a strong sentimental streak early in the book that convinced me he wasn’t going to do that) kills the suspense.

So, ultimately, we get a lot of meh, and the presence of some recently dead folks helps kill the suspense (being dead doesn’t seem all that bad) and adds some comic notes that don’t quite fit the vibe of the rest of the book.

This is Leeds’ first novel, and I was engaged enough to finish even though the second half didn’t do much for me. So I think he’s got big things ahead of him, but, for me, anyway, this one wasn’t it.

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