The story starts off with a younger Paul, back when he had a wife and a young son, a son he lost to a terrible accident. This haunts the older Paul we come to know in the story. The Loon is set up much like a prison as the inmates tend to hurt themselves or others if left to wander about. The guards all have rubber bullets or stun guns. With the heavy winter storm, no one will be getting in or out for a day or two. Hence, some of the guards called in sick so they wouldn’t be stuck there. Nice. Now the institute is left short-staffed. And Dr. Crane has plans. Nefarious plans.
The set up for this thriller is well done. You pretty much get to know everyone’s personality in the first quarter of the book. Then the action starts. Lots and lots of action. There’s more than one monster, there’s more than one bad guy. And I did love hating on both long before the book was over. Collings doesn’t sugar coat these bad guys.
While the characters are a bit one or perhaps two dimensional, I did get attached to some, found myself rooting for them, and a bit sad when some of them perished. This book was primarily about the setting and the action. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. This audiobook was my little companion as I folded laundry, made dinner, and, in the evenings, ignored the rest of the world.
Collings tells a thrilling story set in a spooky place with multiple terrors and pitfalls for our would-be heroes. Not everyone makes it out alive, and those that did, will probably need some intensive therapy. Dr. Crane is one twisted man seeking glory through twisted research. He has a big secret (which he thinks of as a pet), and if it gets out, will wreak havoc on the institute. Then there is a man confined to the institute for his crimes. He’s always waiting for the opportunity to escape, or maim and/or kill another inmate or guard. He does not play well with others, especially children. The entire story, I so looked forward to seeing how Collings would end this baddie.
I loved that this book had both male and female guards and that Collings didn’t treat the women characters with kid gloves. Oh, no, not at all. The ladies have plenty of badness to contend with, and only a few make it out alive. I also liked that the cast was multiracial as that reflects Americana more realistically than the typical all-white cast horror flicks I see on TV. This gave another dimension to the book. The narrator performed all the Hispanics in Spanish accents (sometimes a bit exaggerated) which made it easier to keep track of different characters.
Overall, the ending was very satisfying. The monsters had their chance to run free and create mayhem. Some good guys died, some bad guys died – all in unique, often gruesome ways. There was one little wrap up detail that is still niggling at me. Rachel defended herself from her violent husband before fleeing to her brother. I think there is probably a police report on that, but how that fell out wasn’t covered. It’s a small point, but I like stories that address the consequences of a character’s action so it’s been niggling at me. Still, with that one real criticism, I can tell you I had a hard time putting this book down. It kept me entertained throughout, with no dull lulls. All the characters were interesting and involved in the action. A great thrill ride with monsters, desperate humans, killer weather, and characters I wanted to lift out of The Loon and give them a cup of tea. Or a cup of poison.
The Narration: John Bell did a pretty good job. His voice is very animated and I think he has fun narrating. The characters were each distinct and his kid voice was great. He did these low, gruff voices for some the characters that was spot on. While his Spanish accents were sometimes a bit exaggerated, it made it easier to keep track of all the characters. I liked his sassy voice for one the guards.