Review: Suffer the Children by John Saul (1977)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 3/7/2017

Lists: None

Challenges:

  • Lifetime Challenge
  • My Horror Challenge

Blurb:

One hundred years ago in Port Arbello a pretty little girl began to scream. And struggle. And die. No one heard. No one saw. Just one man whose guilty heart burst in pain as he dashed himself to death in the sea. Now something peculiar is happening in Port Arbello. The children are disappearing, one by one. An evil history is repeating itself. And one strange, terrified child has ended her silence with a scream that began a hundred years ago.

Review:

I read this book for my Lifetime Challenge (year 1977).

When I was in high school in the late 70’s, I read horror novels incessantly. Horror was very big at the time, and I was fully into the craze. If it had a black or metallic shiny cover, I probably read it.

Horror books have certainly changed, and I miss the old-school horror of that golden era. So I wanted to add some horror books into my 1970’s reading challenge. I might have read this book by John Saul back when it was first published, but as I read it just now, I didn’t remember anything about it. Which was a good thing in terms of not having the plot spoiled.

The story centers around a small town where children begin to disappear. The disappearances seem located near the home of the Congers, the rich family in town, who have a big house and lots of land by the sea. There are woods and an “embankment”–plenty of places for children to go missing. There are some horrible happenings in the Conger family’s past and a curse. The current Conger family seems nice enough and has two little girls. But one of the little girls, Sarah, had something terrible happen to her a year ago (involving her father) and no longer speaks. Her older sister, Elizabeth, cares for Sarah with great maturity and patience.

Or does she? What happened to Sarah, and how does it relate to the current disappearances of three other children?

I read this book straight through in 2 days. It really kept my attention and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen. We’re pretty much told early on who the guilty party is. But the thing that kept me reading was wanting to see how and when this person would get caught (please!) and if the missing children would survive. I won’t spoil it for you except to say this is a true horror novel, so don’t expect a Happily Ever After.

What you will get, however, is a considerable amount of gore and horrible happenings involving children. So if that’s a trigger for you, beware. Seriously. There’s also a strong paranormal element with ghosts and people acting out old curses. I appreciated that there was an actual story here and it wasn’t just a grue-fest like Saw. There’s stuff involving Sarah’s medical care, small town politics, how the parents are coping with Sarah’s problems, what’s going on with the parents of the missing children, the cop in town, etc. I found it a nice mix of elements. But the horror, when it’s there, is definitely very horrific. There are a few scenes that had me grimacing. (In case it’s not clear, that’s a good thing.)

I really enjoyed this trip back to 70’s paranormal horror novels and want to read some more. It was refreshing that the story wasn’t about zombies, the apocalypse, or a dystopian future!

Recommended to anyone who enjoys horror.

Book Links:

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Amazon

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