Danny Orchard, at the age of sixteen, just barely survived the house fire that took his twin sister’s life. His memoir, The After, which describes his near-death experience, awards him moderate fame and fortune, and he lives a comfortable if isolated life in Cambridge, MA. What his fans don’t know is that his sister still haunts him in death as much as she did in life.
Ashleigh Orchard was outwardly the perfect child: beautiful, smart, talented, and popular. But behind closed doors, she was a terror—and only her family knew the full extent of the horror she could cause. Ash delights in cruelty to animals and people alike, and her death comes as a relief to both her brother and her father. Of course, Danny doesn’t anticipate Ash continuing to haunt him throughout his life, keeping him from forming any close relationships.
Now, Danny finds himself falling in love, but he knows that Ash will never let him be happy. There’s only one thing he can do to protect Willa and her young son, Eddie: force Ash back to the underworld she came from. But to do that, he’ll have to revisit the events of his past and learn what really happened the day of the fire.
The Damned is a quick read (seriously, I read it in less than six hours on a single Sunday) because you won’t want to put it down. Ash is truly, magnificently evil, and Danny’s quest to find out who set fire to the house is sufficiently suspenseful. The origins of Ash’s evil is interesting, too; she’s not your garden-variety sociopath, instead losing her soul at birth due to her mother’s unintentional deal with the devil when the twins are born prematurely. (I promise that’s not a spoiler; it comes up pretty early on.)
One thing that kind of bugged me though was the over-reliance on sentence fragments. I thought at first that they were being used for emphasis, but when there were multiple fragments on each page, it started to get pretty annoying. By the end it seemed like each paragraph went “Full sentence. Fragment. Fragment. Fragment. Fragment.” Bleh. Creative license, whatever, but if I had been this guy’s editor I would have gotten rid of at least half the fragments. Doing something for emphasis doesn’t work anymore when you do it all the time.
Other than that, though, it was a good story and kept me amused for six hours on a Sunday, which is exactly what I was looking for. This is definitely a good one to pick up if you want a quick horror story that’ll grip you right from the beginning.by