Published by Oak Tree Press on April 21, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Review Copy
Eighty years ago, a wealthy Midwest family returned home from a magic show, after which neither they, nor the magician, Malvern Kamrar, were ever heard from again. When several bystanders died in their mansion, the house was sealed. After nearly a century of rumors and haunted stories, for a live TV event the mansion will be opened, allowing five contestants to spend one night and win their share of a million dollars.
The contestants: a psychic, a high-tech ghost hunter, a Hollywood scream queen, a local woman, and a skeptic, fuel excitement as each tries to solve the mystery. Upon entering, the journal of the family patriarch, Vinton Drake, is discovered, illuminating the mystery, rooted all the way back to Vinton’s service as a medic in WWI, when he first met the magician.
Departing from the familiar haunted house tale, this story explores the very nature of belief in the supernatural, with consequences more frightening than any ghost story. Intensity sours when the contestants discover their lives, and thousands more, are in genuine peril. Is the mansion haunted? What fate befell Malvern and the Drake family? And will the contestants uncover the truth in time to save themselves?
When I first approached Channing Whitaker‘s Until the Sun Rises, I was expecting something a bit like House on Haunted Hill. A group of strangers can win a boatload of cash if they make it through one night in a small town’s mystery house, deemed haunted due to its shady history. But what I got was a satisfyingly creepy story that dealt with much more than a simple Casper.
The shift between the two narrators Whitaker presents in the novel, Harlan Holt in the present and Vinton Drake in the past, provide a wonderful contrast to the story that helps break up the pace of the novel while never allowing it to get stale. Mix in the rest of the characters in Until the Sun Rises, and what you have is a well thought out look at the different types of people one might expect to find in this particular situation. Ax, in all of his reckless abandon to prove that spirits and the paranormal are real, remains one of my favorite parts of the novel. And no character is truly what you expect them to be, especially when the lines of good and evil become blurred.
One truly interesting aspect of Until the Sun Rises was the small sections revolving around the television broadcast portion of the story. It made me think about how our society today views entertainment in such a strange and unusual way, and how involved we can sometimes become when such activities are being followed. Each time a break in the main storyline occurred, and I was brought back inside the world of the live broadcast, I was reminded that these characters weren’t just exploring a potentially dangerous area for fun, but rather because everyone involved stood a chance at earning some serious money that night, despite what the outcome could be.
Whitaker’s Until the Sun Rises is unexpected, well-paced, and interesting enough that picking up a copy is worth your time.