In the Hudson River Valley of New York state lies the town of Watch Point, a backwater place with a secret. Just outside town, sits Harrow, a house that seems grown from a hundred influences, and that has a dark soul. Douglas Clegg has taken me there three times in the past, in the novels The Nightmare House, Mischief, and The Abandoned, and though it does not make for peaceful vacationing, he took me there again over the last few days in The Infinite.
Technically, I’ve read these novels out of sequence, by jumping to The Abandoned before this one. However, the books are each sufficiently stand alone to function without the others, so it hasn’t made any difference to my understanding of what’s going on, and nor will it yours. Everything you need to know about the history of the house, that once it was a madman’s fortress, then a school, before now lying empty, is contained between these covers. Harrow is a place of horrors and madness, though it has lain quiet since a fire burned the school to the ground, and is well known in psychic circles for tales of hauntings and happenings.
When a group of psychics are paid to spend a few days at Harrow, using their talents to collect evidence of the supernatural that might stand the tests of science, they at first encounter nothing at all, and find their own abilities curiously muted. Unknown to them, however, is that Harrow is well used to exploiting the weaknesses of those who work its corridors, and the spiritual scars and longing they each bring with them are all the fuel it needs to ignite.
The Infinite is a long, slow build-up to a spectacular, brutal climax. The first four fifths of the novel, in fact, involve the various characters getting to Harrow, meeting, poking around its dormant shadows, forming relationships, and just… well… developing. It’s one of the things I enjoyed most about the book, in fact, because Clegg’s characters are fascinating, and so richly drawn. At the end of the book, as thrilled as I was by the quicksilver change in tone from uneasiness to outright horror, I was left with a sense that I would have enjoyed spending even more time reading about these people, their backgrounds, and obsessions.
And when it comes, the long build-up pays of spectacularly. Having grown close to the characters in such a leisurely way, the evils that eventually threaten them are all the more potent to the reader, growing naturally from the carefully intertwined threads of psychological and supernatural unease which unravel to that point, and you won’t be able to put the book down from that point until it finishes.
The Infinite is a rich addition to the haunted house sub-genre, and can happily trace its bloodline back to the likes of The Haunting of Hill House and The Shining without embarrassment.
(PS – proper update coming soon, just catching you up with what I’ve read since New Year)