3.38 (215 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
By (author) 

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A horror novel first published in 1985 in which four adolescents, in a bid to change their mundane lives, form a secret, unearthly pact, each one calling upon the powers of a dark supernatural force with a wish to be fulfilled. What begins as an innocent game soon becomes a nightmare.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 280 pages
  • 166.9 x 231.9 x 28.2mm | 716.68g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0246126833
  • 9780246126832

Review Text

In several of Campbell's horror-novels, the character-relationships have been more persuasive than the occultery - and this time he moves still further in a lowkey, subtle direction, with a psychological-suspense tale that may appeal more to Ruth Rendell readers than to the King/Straub crowd. During the summer of 1958, four 15-year-old friends - in the small East Anglia town of Seaward - have separate sources of misery: Peter's home-life has become a hell ever since the arrival of his meddling, puritanical grandmother; Steve, a radical sort, is being persecuted by a teacher; Jimmy is in a stew about his impoverished father's compulsive gambling; and Robin knows that her mother is being blackmailed by a lecherous colleague. Thus, when Peter receives a mysterious letter in the mail, offering "WHATEVER YOU MOST NEED" in return for an unspecified "something that you do not value, "all four kids reply to the London P.O. box number - with scarily quick results: Peter's grandma dies, Steve's teacher has a stroke, Jimmy's father wins a lottery, and the blackmailer gets hit by a car. Coincidence? The supernatural? No one's quite sure. But, 25 years later, disasters begin to strike the four 40-year-olds, still living in Seaward but no longer close friends. Jimmy, now a policeman, loses his wife in a hideous accident; Robin, an unmarried doctor, loses her solid reputation - thanks primarily to her hostile, fiercely senile mother; Steve, now his father's partner in a real-estate firm, sees the family business unfairly disintegrating; and Peter, a nervous social-worker who wears an ill-fitting toupee, is being haunted by his nasty grandma's ghost. ("You'll pay," she taunts. "You'll pay just as your friends are paying.") Still, only Peter - who may, of course, be hallucinating - believes that the 25-year-old mystery letter is behind these current misfortunes. So, while the others react to their plights in perfectly reasonable, unsupersititious ways, Peter gets crazier and crazier, becomes obsessed with somehow reaching that long-ago P.O. box address. . . and winds up as a hapless murderer and kidnapper before his pathetic demise. Appealing people in dire straits, grimly convincing small-town details, and just a whiff or two of the (maybe/maybe not) occult: a quiet, ironic, largely absorbing reworking of the devil's-pact horror formula - with character-texture instead of gore and goblins. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

215 ratings
3.38 out of 5 stars
5 11% (24)
4 33% (70)
3 41% (89)
2 13% (29)
1 1% (3)
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