The Binding by Nicholas Wolff
Gallery Books, June 2016
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
A dark and foreboding atmosphere is established on the very first page of Nicholas Wolff’s The Binding, and the story, which for a short time, seems like it will be relatively straightforward, quickly makes a turn into even darker and more disturbing territory.
Northam, Massachusetts has serious problems. The recent, bizarre, and gory murder of college student Margaret Post is in the news, an unsolved crime that unsettles and disturbs John Bailey, the policeman who arrived at the scene. Dr. Nat Turner is the psychiatrist on night shift at the community clinic when the distressed and haunted-looking father of teenage Becca Prescott arrives, and asks for help for his daughter: she no longer recognizes him, and insists that she is dead. Divorce lawyer Chuck Godwin is certain he is being stalked by an apparition. First grader Charlie Bailey, examining the family photos hanging in the hallway, senses that the stories he’s been told about them are incomplete, and that something there is seriously wrong. Suicides are up, and bodies are missing. Is it all chance, or is something more going on?
There’s a common trope running underneath the plot of The Binding, but the action takes some surprising directions before that trope is revealed. Unfortunately, much of the reveal takes place during an awkward interruption of the story with a long, detailed, but not very helpful chunk of exposition from someone who is not a direct witness to the events described. This breaks the pacing and suspense just as we’re building to the climax of the story. The conclusion to the story is another awkward piece of exposition by a person not acquainted with the events of the story, undermining the sense of foreboding established at the beginning of the book and leaving the reader feeling as if the story is incomplete. Some relationships also seem unbelievable, particularly the one between Nat and Becca. Despite the extended expository sequences and improbable relationships, however, The Binding is still an atmospheric, compelling, tangle of a story that will stick with you after you are done. Recommended.
Contains: cannibalism, torture, mutilation, gruesome scenes, suicide, murder, implied necrophilia, corpse stealing
Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski