“Dead Ringers” by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

Dead Ringers
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What if you weren’t the only one of your kind? What if one day you saw someone who looked exactly like you, to the point where your friends and family couldn’t really tell the difference, and this doppelganger was also better looking and more successful than you? And what if he or she wanted to kill you so they could take your place?

Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband in downtown Boston; she notices something different about him. He looks younger, thinner, healthier, and he acts like he has no idea who she is. When she calls him later to vent, he tells her he never saw her because he’s in New Hampshire.

Frank Lindbergh is wondering if it’s time to give up and just die. A few days ago this guy showed up who looks exactly like him, only better. He stripped him naked and chained him to a pole in his own basement where he’s been going to the bathroom in a bucket and eating whatever scraps and leftovers his doppelganger deigns to bring him. He’s withering away and is actually starting to see the basement floor through parts of his naked body. The man who isn’t him is living his life, working his job, and fooling everyone. So does he just give up and die or does he fight?

Not everyone has an exact, evil copy of themselves; it’s only a select group. What they have in common is a special house where bad things happened, where bodies were found that had been buried for a long time. Dark and twisted rituals had been performed there and somehow that’s important. Then there’s the psychomanteum.

As with his previous novels, Christopher Golden has proven he has a talent for writing the out of the ordinary horror story. Dead Ringers is a story about a haunted house and ritual black magic; it’s also about feeling lost and out of control, and what it means to have your whole life threatened by someone who looks exactly like you. It is both terrifying and horrifying on many levels, some of them subtle, some of them painfully obvious.

Originally written on January 7, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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