Title: The Price
Authors: Alexandra Sokoloff
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: February 2008
First off, Alexandra Sokoloff has a near indispensable blog for aspiring and established writers alike. I've been following it for all of 2009, after stumbling upon it through my initial blog trolling, and she has some gems on there for dissecting a story. I initially didn't know she wrote horror and suspense novels, so when I saw her bibliography I knew I had to read some of her work. After months of scouring, I found The Price in my library's catalog.
Will Sullivan has it all: the wife, the daughter, the political ambition and connections to ensure a win in the Massachusetts Gubernatorial election. It all falls apart though, when his young daughter, Sydney, is stricken with cancer—a tumor winds its way through her body threatening to inevitably kill her one way or another. Will and wife, Joanna, are at the ends of their tethers as they watch Sydney's health decline. Even the best medical facility in the country, Briarwood Medical Center, is running out of options to treat her.
It's at this point, during Will's darkest hours—tormented by Sydney's suffering, Joanna's distancing, and his campaign's floundering—he meets a man at the hospital named Salk, a counselor of sorts with associations with several of the patients at Briarwood. Talk of miracles has Will hopeful for an instant, but doubtful as well, since he suspects Salk is just another new-age faith healer. But, after he sees Joanna speaking with him in secret, Sydney's health returns. In fact, several patients at Briarwood are experiencing seemingly miraculous recoveries.
Just when Will Sullivan's life should be back to normal, and happiness back in his life, a darkness seeps into his home and threatens to tear it all apart. The question he has to answer for himself and for his family: What price must be paid so that Sydney can live, and his family can stay whole?
As he tries to discover the secrets within Briarwood, the patients healing from insurmountable maladies, about Salk's true nature, and a secret held by Joanna, Will Sullivan edges closer and closer to a precipice where he may lose everything.
The story may be more suspense than horror, but however you want to classify it, it's a good read. The tone of the story, with the Sullivan family experiencing some other worldly events, had me remembering the film, The Devil's Advocate. I love that movie. The tone was perfect for that film, and this novel taps into the same kind of dread. Sokoloff's style holds what I would clumsily describe as a sophistication, with regards to her storytelling. There are no real "holy sh*t" moments, but rather a continuous cranking of the tension, mystery, and suspense from the first page to the last. The ending, while a wee bit predictable and foreshadowed, is satisfying. And, there's still room for Sokoloft to add one final twist at the end to make the story memorable.
I read the paperback edition of this book, and the only gripe I really have concerned the font size. Maybe my eyes are worse than I suspected, but I found myself reading with the book mere inches from my face half the time. If St. Martin's Press wants to save on paper by printing with a smaller font, perhaps they could include a magnifying glass for blind sods like me. If most paperbacks are printed with a 12-size font, this novel was printed with in 10-size.
For me, I was impressed enough by The Price to make sure I keep an eye out for more of Alexandra Sokoloff's work. Her most recent offering, The Unseen, sounds particularly intriguing and I hope to read it soon. There's also her debut novel, The Harrowing, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, for Best First Novel. I'm no expert, but I don't think the Stokers are in the habit of nominating duds.