The Mask Shop Of Doctor Blaack: Steve Rasnic Tem
Reviewed by D.K. Hundt
Steve Rasnic Tem is the author of over four-hundred short stories and seven novels and is a past winner of the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy awards. A collection of his selected stories, Figures Unseen, recently came out from Valancourt Books. His stories for children and young adults have appeared in such anthologies as A Nightmare’s Dozen, edited by Michael Stearns, Bruce Coville’s Book of Spine‐Tinglers 2, and Scary Out There, edited by Jonathan Maberry, and his first middle-grade novel featured in this review The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack, Published and Distributed by Hex Publishers, LLC.
Like the thirteen-year-old protagonist in The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack, Laura, my favorite season is Autumn, that time of year when the summer months never seem to end, and then suddenly, a welcome breeze and dancing Fall leaves, the sweet-smelling scent of spiced cider fills the air bringing a smile to my face. Halloween is just around the corner – and like always – I can hardly wait!
This year Laura considers herself to be a grown-up and wants nothing more than to spend Halloween with her friends, but, like many older brothers and sisters, her parents told her that she has to take her seven-year-old brother trick-or-treating first “and that’s kid stuff,” especially dressing up in a costume. She secretly wants to go trick-or-treating one last time, just not with her goofy, kid brother Trevor. “Sometimes Laura wants to chop him into little pieces and flush him down the toilet, but her dad said it’s pretty normal for her to think that way,” because she loves him, and having three brothers myself, I agree.
Bound and determined to find the perfect Halloween costumes, not the ill-fitting plastic masks that leave you out of breath and the cheaply made costumes that tear up the back or slit across the belly, Laura and Trevor set off on the city bus where they come upon The Mask Shop Of Doctor Blaack, and I’m convinced – by the stories end – that the mysterious masks they find actually found them.
I really like Steve Rasnic Tem’s writing style, though The Mask of Doctor Blaack is a story meant for middle-schoolers, he doesn’t coddle the reader by toning down the horror or take it to an unnecessary extreme either. At the age of ten I was reading Stephen King novels, so I would have been thrilled if there had been more added to the horror and mayhem within the narrative, which was evenly paced throughout and never felt rushed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and the only issue that I had, if you can call it that, is wanting the final scene (resolution) to play out a bit more.
This novel is not only the perfect scary Halloween tale, one that I highly recommend, it also highlights a larger theme of family, love, loss, sacrifice, and the different kinds of masks we all wear in life, like, for example, the smiles we put on our faces to hide the pain we feel so deeply after the loss of a loved one, and in the eyes of Laura and Trevor after the death of one of their nearest and dearest, “it was like saying the moon was gone from the sky” – it made little sense at all.
If my review or the synopsis of The Mask of Doctor Blaack sparked your interest, then, by all means, take a bite, and delve into the creative mind of the author – you may be surprised by what you find lurking within.
~ D.K. Hundt
“Grab your bag and little brother’s hand, drag him across the street as fast as you can!
Grin and grin and grin some more, Trick-or-Trick, Trick-or-Treat, Trick or more!
Ghosts and goblins and things that go bump, but when little brother starts howling then you’ll jump!”
Fall is Laura’s favorite time of year, but this autumn, things are different. She’s a teenager now, and the season brings new changes and challenges. Laura’s decided she’s too old for trick-or-treating and wants a more grown-up Halloween experience with her friends. Unfortunately for Laura, her parents tell her she has to take her little brother, Trevor, out trick-or-treating first. When they go shopping for Halloween costumes, they stumble upon a very strange shop and its even stranger proprietor. When Trevor tries on the wrong mask, the consequences are exciting…and dangerous.
D. K. Hundt is an American writer with a BA degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing contemporary fiction and horror/supernatural stories, she likes to spend her free time working as a volunteer in her community, being a minion for her cat Simon, warding off carnivorous spiders, and throwing herself into and around the dark alleyways of Stephen King novels in search of inspiration. D. K. resides in California with her husband, and she is currently working on a horror novel titled, Cheveyo–a story about a young boy who goes to live with his grandpa on a reservation, and soon discovers that the malevolent creatures that lurk in the Okanogan Forest aren’t the only deadly secret the locals are hiding.
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