I have read quite a few of Gary Fry’s novels and novellas and I know what I like about his writing. First, he really knows how to create a mood. Tense. Brooding. Unsettling. It gets to you as you read. Makes you apprehensive for the characters and builds tension which is critical in dark fiction and suspense novels. The House of Canted Steps is certainly no exception. A creepy haunted house story in a Hitchcock style. Slow build. Building to a no holds barred finale.
The second thing that I enjoy in Fry’s work, and I think that he does it as well as anyone and much better than most, is to let us in on the thought processes of his main character. Fry tends to tell his stories exclusively in first person perspective, which for some writers can be quite limiting since you leave so much of the story beyond the perimeter of your narration, but with Fry it works well because of the way that he does it. From the very beginning of the story we are inside the main character/narrator’s (Mark) head, following every thought, including his own reasoning and rationalizations as he weighs and performs every action. These thoughts ARE the story to some extent. Exceeding well done, in my opinion. Horror stories, good ones at least, are about real characters in unreal situations and you have to connect the story to the real world or it won’t have much of an effect. In this novel, I think that Fry completely nails the dynamic of divorce with child(ren), new spouses/significant others, jealousy, loss, and all of those related feelings. I found Mark to be completely believable and totally bought into him as a character, to the point that later in the book, when things get more and more off kilter, that I found myself very annoyed with him, wondering why he was doing certain things, until I realized…….well, you might want to read the book to see what I was about to say.
I have read several other of Fry’s works, all printed by Darkfuse—which in my opinion is publishing a fine line of dark fiction from a variety of new and seasoned authors.