The Deceiver
Melanie Tem

May 1, 2003
Trade Paperback/342 pages
ISBN: 0-8439-5097-8
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"A dark tale."

"Both story line and horror are subtle and elusive, in the V.C. Andrews style . . ."

". . .a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award for previous works . . ."

Tem’s latest release is a dark tale centered on an otherworldly presence with a disembodied voice, largely left unexplained. The "voice" gradually intensifies, following family members through five generations. Both storyline and horror are subtle and elusive, in the V.C. Andrews style; the resolution leaves the reader with some unanswered questions.


The book begins with scenes from 1894–2000, focusing on Cecelia’s grandfather and his brother, her grandmother (who died after a botched abortion), possible incest, Cecelia’s engagement to a gay man and later marriage to a serial cheater. The work ends with a mother who kills one of her children.

The story, which toggles in time, has so many characters that one almost needs a written list to remember who they are and how they relate to the story. The characters fail to compel a deep interest in their welfare; indeed they don’t seem deeply interested in each other. The occasional voice or spirit leading them astray could be terrifying, but becomes buried in daily detail of too many lives, thus missing the mark. This reader''s emotion never rose beyond a mild curiosity about where the voice would lead each character it visits.

A reader with delicate sensibilities may want to skip the scenes depicting the anti-war, drug, and sex-crazed ''60s at their sleaziest. They add little to the plot. Nor do the early scenes further the story of Kirk, who is introduced in the ''60s but is revisited later in the story.

A promotional cover blurb labels Ms. Tem as “a master at conveying visceral terror” and proclaims her a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award for previous works. This is certainly true of the new work, though it may not be on par with Tem''s earlier titles.

One chilling thing about this horror novel is that it''s 342 long pages long. Then again, it is titled, THE DECEIVER.

Reviewer: Doris Lakey