Dark Teardrops by Catherine Tramell – Book Review
Catherine Tramell takes a lofty stab at greatness with Dark Teardrops, comparing it to The Exorcist in her back cover blurb, taking a shot at the reams of poor imitations which followed William Peter Blatty’s (RIP) influential possession horror.
Dark Teardrops, the blurb claims, is aimed directly at fans of Blatty’s novel. Now, I’m a big Exorcist fan. It’s one of the horror stories I come back to yearly, whether it’s movie, screenplay or novel. I defend the film passionately to anyone who criticises it (rightly or wrongly). So okay, I thought, reading the author’s promise. Let’s see if you can live up to it.
Sadly, by page five, the promise was broken. Dark Teardrops has aspirations of greatness, but like tears themselves, those aspirations dry up quickly. Jim and his daughter Brisia are no Chris and Regan, and this story favours eventual gore over the slow build of dread.
Overloaded with huge paragraphs, some more than half a page long, there’s no drive to the drama. By page five of The Exorcist you’ve met three key players, and realise that ancient evil is lurking in the shadows. All Dark Teardrops can offer by then is an old woman looking at photos, talking to herself.
Still, horror does eventually come into play, and things become more graphic, but it’s too sudden a shift in tone. With no build-up, the gore and rote “little girl swearing” possession stuff feels a bit out of place. One day it’s family breakfasts and fond looks, the next day it’s dogs being beaten to death with baseball bats. And even though the viscera flies in some imaginative, shocking ways, there’s a slightly B-movie feel to the prose; more shock value than spine-tingling.
And then there’s the onomatopoeia. So much onomatopoeia. Ring ring! goes a phone, peep! goes a bird, beep beep! goes an ECG…and on it goes. These sound effects are mostly used as scene breaks, which completely ruined any tension or scares beforehand. I can’t take a brutal assault seriously if the next line afterwards is ding dong! – that’s like blowing a slide whistle at the end of Sleepaway Camp.
Despite all these faults, it’s clear that the author is in love with language, and with writing. There’s a great scene in which the possessed Brisia humiliates a teacher with a sharp literary analysis of Don Quixote. This really stood out for me, thanks to its clear & genuine passion. If the rest of the story were as well-written as that single outburst, there’d be a higher number at the end of this review.
The final chapter does go some way to redeeming the story, with a powerful confrontation between demon and family, but it’s a foghorn of a showdown, too blaring and noisy to really resonate emotionally.
Overall, Dark Teardrops was too much like a poorly edited half-novel to recommend as a good read. Though it did make me want to go back to The Exorcist, so it’s not all bad.
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017BE3EGO
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B017BE3EGO