The Red Door by E. H. James


The Red Door by E. H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (30 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Max is your typical 16-year-old trying to navigate his way through yet another high school, in 1962. Unable to avoid the bullies that love to torment everyone in their sight, Max plays along. But when they demand he go into the abandoned Starke house at midnight, on the anniversary of the serial killer’s execution, Max is not overly anxious to comply. For it is said Starke reappears at the scene of the crime, back to where he buried all those boys in his basement. Given the task of returning with a chip of blood from the basement door, Max heads into the house, determined to make fools out of every one of them. For only a fool would believe in such nonsense…right?

Unfinished basements are creepy. Where else can you be six – or more – feet underground in a dark, dank, muffled, dirt-filled environment that has no sense of the passage of time?

Max thinks he’s finally figured out how to silence his bullies. At first I was surprised by the author’s decision to show Max’s emotional torment without describing why such an intelligent, peace-loving guy was chosen as a victim or what was going on in the lives of Jimmy and his friends to justify their abuse. Bullies aren’t logical, though, and some human beings are just simply cruel. In retrospect this information wasn’t important or necessary for what happens next in the story. What matters is that Max’s response to their taunts is never out of proportion or unkind. If anything he isn’t quite assertive enough! This level-headedness speaks volumes about Max’s personal code of ethics.

The Red Door’s climax left something to be desired. A scene I was particularly anticipating ends almost as soon as it begins. Switching away at that particular moment drained some of the tension in this story for me. It took until the final scene for me to begin regaining the excitement and dread I’d felt for these characters earlier. This would have been easily corrected in a longer book but it was difficult for me to reengage with the plot when so little of it was left.

Mr. James was effective at slowly building interest in the mysteries of the Starke house, though, and in describing a recently abandoned home in eerie detail from how quickly dust covers everything to what happens to a crime scene after everyone in the outside world begins to move on with their lives.

Are you ready to see what lies beyond The Red Door? This is a good tale for anyone who enjoys thinking about what might be waiting for them as much as they do actually discovering it.

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