The Price (book, Alexandra Sokoloff, 2007)
From SFX 194.
Alexandra Sokoloff/Piatkus/310 pages/ £6.99
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Gubernatorial candidate spirals down the rabbit hole of insanity. Or does he?
First published in the US in 2007, this is the first UK printing for Sokoloff’s second book, courtesy of Piatkus, who are fast developing a solid line in horror. Sokoloff is the latest in a long line of novelists with screenwriting aspirations. As such, it’s easy to see The Price unfold like a glossy, mid-range Hollywood chiller in your noggin. Though in this case, that’s no bad thing.
Boston DA Will Sullivan is born of politico stock, and is on his way to the very top. But his daughter, Sydney, lies dying of cancer in the monstrous Briarwood hospital complex, and his wife is going mad with grief. Sullivan is approached by the mysterious Salk, who intimates miracles can be procured… for a price. Sullivan rebuffs him, but does his wife?
Sokoloff pops us right inside Sullivan’s head and shows us a rounded character. Her warts and all approach to the human psyche pays dividends as she teases us: is Sullivan mad, or is all this really happening? It’s a common enough trick, but rarely pulled off so well as here.
At times the story becomes repetitive, as Sullivan heads off yet another time into the secret hospital behind a hospital he finds at the back of a lift. Another author might have made a little more of Sullivan’s struggles to divine the truth once his daughter is seemingly cured, heck, Stephen King could have lingered on this for another 1000 pages, but that’s only a drawback insomuch as the story feels disappointingly undernourished. Similarly, this lion-hearted DA too rapidly caves when he is confronted with the reality of his situation. Otherwise it is a gripping, if brief, read. Guy Haley
Did you know?
Piatkus is part of French Hachette Livre, which owns a goodly part of the UK’s publishing houses, including, ultimately, most of our SF, fantasy and horror imprints.