The first thing I noticed about Night of the Pentagram, an occult, gothic thriller by Barrymore Tebbs, is the eye catching cover. Blood mars a red Hollywood star with the heroine's name, Elizabeth York, on it. And what a title!
The novel is unique in that it tackles film and acting in the first scene. The heroine, Elizabeth York, is an actress who has had a horrid past. Her husband, Sven Lindstrom, was murdered in a gruesome act that haunts her. Readers are invited in to her memories of finding her husband when she is jarred back into the past on the set of the movie she is in.
Plot/Writing-- 4/5: Once the novel takes off in the first chapter, it doesn't stop. A cast of eclectic characters from the 60s make their way in to the novel and to La Casa Del Mar in a mix of murder, the occult, astrology, psychology, Satanism, mayhem, and... a black goat. I didn't guess who did the killing, and the occult part of the novel is very satisfying. The feeling of being in a film within a film also adds a dimension, and Tebbs sprinkles film industry lingo throughout the novel as the characters play out their roles in the macabre dance. Tebbs indulges in some telling with regard to setting and doesn't let readers inside Elizabeth York's head as much as I'd like, but overall, the writing is strong.
The gothic setting and feeling of psychological isolation comes in when Elizabeth checks in to the Abernathy Clinic and saturates the novel as the stakes rise.
Setting-- 5/5: I really like the setting of a sanatarium. It works well for gothic horror and psychological horror, or even for gothic romance. I especially like this description of La Casa Del Mar:
The house perched above them, a deformed child, unloved and abandoned, doomed to live out its days on a lonely cliff overlooking the sea.
Night of the Pentagram - (Kindle Locations 302-303).
And the moment in history, late 1968, is tangible:
“What an awful year it’s been,” Elizabeth said, “The assassinations of Reverend King and Mr. Kennedy, the Pentagram Murders, the senseless suicide of such a beautiful young woman.”
Night of the Pentagram - (Kindle Locations 405-406).
Charaterization-- 5/5: Tebbs has managed to name each character in a meaningful way. From Roland de Winter and the gothic resonance of that name to Jewel St. John, each name is a gem full of sly overtones. Another of my favorite things about Tebbs' writing is the zany characters and how real the time period feels. The characters love to smoke, wear gold chains, and take drug trips. After reading Night of the Pentagram, I'm inspired to write a throwback novel myself with lots of chain smoking. :) Here's a description of one of the characters, Bryce Avondale. I like Elizabeth's observations, too, about the nature of celebrity:
The man was tall and dark skinned with a head of curly black hair. Elizabeth thought he might be European. Elizabeth definitely found him attractive. She supposed she would be seeing a lot of attractive people here, both men and women. Celebrity was not known to be accommodating to the plain and ordinary. He wore a burgundy silk shirt that was unbuttoned at his chest revealing a sculpted physique and a virile abundance of chest hair which he accented with a number of sparkling gold chains. The flared pants that rode low on his hips were flattering as well, the dark pinstripe against off-white fabric lending the illusion that he was taller than he was.
Night of the Pentagram - (Kindle Locations 323-327).
Spooky Elements-- 5/5: Night of the Pentagram would lend itself to the big screen quite easily. I could picture all the characters, and the creepy elements feel quite real. A pervasive note of doom hangs over Elizabeth York and the clinic. Tarot, ritual killings, murder, suicide, drugs, and a black goat add to the hallucinatory effect of the work. This one is shocking, fun, and spooky. I loved the ending as well; you'll never see it coming, and it will raise more questions.
If you're looking for something that will take you back to the 60s and give you a delightful shiver or two, check out Night of the Pentagram.
Rating: 4.5 stars