Friday, April 20, 2007

Age of Consent

Age of Consent, by Howard Mittelmark
$7.99 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0451220579
An erotic thriller that's perfect if you're looking for some light reading. Typical haunted house stuff, but Howard has a terrific knack for mixing the gruesome and macabre with some really cool sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll! Here's the short version: The Coulter family is as wholesome as can be: mom, dad, and a teenage son and daughter. They move into the long abandoned Oneida House on the outskirts of a small New England town. The spirits of some rather vindictive massacred hippies twist the family's personalities in all sorts of shocking ways.
They're just as American as apple pie when they first move in: Gossip Girl novels and iPods. Dad takes the family out to a local diner on their first night, and of course the kids are mortified to be seen in public with their parents around their soon-to-be classmates. Almost immediately they start changing. Peter, the teenage boy, becomes violent and aggressive, and starts experimenting with hard-core drugs and rape. The daughter Virginia, always surrounded by friends, suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn, quickly gains weight, and develops a habit of self-mutilation. Their parents, confused and isolated, quickly develop problems of their own.
The cause of all these sinister changes is the ghosts who visit their rooms each night. Peter, our hero, first encounters a ghost while masturbating in his bedroom. He quickly grows addicted to ghost-lovin' and too much is never enough. The living girl he starts dating from school begins to wonder why her boyfriend likes it so rough. He starts getting into all kinds of messed up stuff from then on. Dad suspects something is up, and his investigations reveal a mass killing that took place in their house back in the '60s. The novel actually changes its setting between the original murders back then and the Coulter family in modern times. Both stories are pretty disturbing.
There's nothing intelligent about Age of Consent: it toggles between shocking sex scenes and vicious violence. Sometimes that's what you're looking for. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and all the other horror writers have a tendency to become formulaic, making this (Mittelmark's very first novel, and a fine one it is) a nice breath of fresh air. For one thing, all the sex and drugs give it some needed edge. For another, the ending is a real shocker. Give a new author a break and try this one out.

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