Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Graham Masterton
Published by Leisure Books
In the realm of horror, the name Graham Masterton evokes a great deal of respect. Haled as one of the masters of his craft, he’s been called a “masterly plotter,” a “consistent provider of chills,” and even the “living inheritor” to Poe’s throne. With The 5th Witch, Masterton proves that everyone can have an off day.
The 5th Witch boils down to an example of how not to write a novel. The plot is as clichéd as the characters, and really provides few chills if any. The plot goes that four crime-lords have all imported their own impossibly thin and wicked-looking witches from all over to help them control the crime in the city. Complete with “evil” Russian-sounding names, angular bodies, and malicious smiles, these witches are so archetypical that it’s less than funny. In fact, it’s insulting to the readers’ collective intelligence. Anywho, it comes down to the stereotypical rogue investigator who is the only one who knows what’s going on, complete with a Mexican sidekick whom he calls “Muchacho,” and a friend of his who is, you guessed it, the 5th witch and the key to stopping the evil forces of the other four.
To spend time tearing this book apart piece by piece would take a while. To tell the truth, it’s possible that this book might not be so bad, but that Masterton’s name is attached, and his is a name from which we, the readers, expect excellence. The dialogue reads like a fifth-grade teleplay with curse words sprinkled in, the secondary and tertiary characters have no development done on them whatsoever, and the main characters, both of them, have very little development to speak of. Most infuriating are the clichés that make up the criminal kingpins and the “Dangerous Evil Divas” that comprise their magical mistresses, as well as the good witch being the stereotypical “Earth-mother” type who seems to have all the answers.
On the plus side, there are some very creative ways for people to die in this book. Included in the first few chapters are a trio of police that burst into flame courtesy of a witch’s power, another cop that vomits up $30 in quarters after the same witch flips a coin at him, and the Irish-named police commissioner (who’s motto is no tolerance on crime) puking up an amazing amount of toxic frogs. While the burning to death in the surveillance vehicle doesn’t sound fun, who couldn’t use an extra $30 in quarters?
This book is not a good example of the usually masterful work of Masterton. This one seems to be that one that was forgotten in a drawer. If it wasn’t, it should have been.
1 1/2 out of 5
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