Anine Atherton seems to have acquired what every fair maiden in the late 1800’s has dreamed of. After marrying a successful, handsome gentleman suitor, her groom emigrates with her from her native land Sweden to New York. Settling in a breath taking home newly procured specifically for the newlyweds, all seems like a fairy tale ending. The ominous entity within their lavish home may have very opposing sentiments. After the caretaker has hung himself, a maid drops dead mysteriously on her first day of employ, Anine is consumed by the eerie laughter and squabbling heard within the confines of the walls in the dead of night. Her husband Julian I engulfed in a metamorphosis that is the direct opposite of the sweet, awkward suitor she had fallen for. The power within the entity seems to know no bounds using Anine’s thoughts and very emotions against her. Will there be any stopping this formidable paranormal phenomenon? Or will Anine ultimately succumb to the Doppelganger?
The fine folks at Samhain Publishing have done it once again. This time around author Sean Munger delivers a most impressive paranormal reading odyssey that may very well challenge any views you’ve had on spirits and the afterlife and regard it in a completely different fashion. Doppelganger is spell binding, provocative and an innovator in changing the genre as we know it.
Rich in culture, art and historical tidbits it doesn’t take long to realize this author has done extensive research in conveying a most realistic back drop for this haunting expose. Precision to accuracy is reflective of the author being a historian and teacher in his own right which would tend to make perfect sense in appeasing to the carnal rule of writing, being write about what you know. Munger’s meticulous attention to detail such as speech, etiquette, customs, person values and morals for that time frame is not entirely unlike taking a journey through any history text book readily available. The act of winning parents’ approval prior to marriage, asking the blessing or even the concept of arranged marriages may seem foreign to most of us in the here and now but quite common place in the nineteenth century. The author manages to illustrate each of these points of interest flawlessly while continuing to engage a contemporary audience. Literary fans may even find amusement in the fact that lead protagonist Anine is a fan of Walter Scott while her husband idolizes Thomas Edison.
With a period piece such as this a preconceived notion may be that the story may move a little slowly and pick up momentum at a very gradual pace. This couldn’t be further from the truth in Doppelganger’s case. We’re treated to imagery of apparitions that are equally haunting and chilling from the initial pages, reeling in the most reluctant of readers from the get go. A delicate blend of exposition and rising tension particularly Anine’s symptoms she endures when first exposed to the entities. The terror is eloquent and gripping and may very well provoke many a reader to sleep with the lights on for a spell.
The morbid descriptions of what prior victims had gone through emotionally and physically is skin crawling reading at its finest. The secret diary discovered and written from the caretaker Bradbury accentuates the hauntings’ impact. He’s clearly a man come completely undone and the chapter is an abundant foreshadow into what fate lies ahead for the troubled, young newlyweds.
Conflict soon exists on numerous levels. Anine versus Julian. Anine versus her inner self. The young couple versus the supernatural and from a broader spectrum Anine versus society. The young lady had enough adversity and obstacles to overcome without the lingering spirits and the odds on survival are seemingly stacked against her.
Ghost tales will forever remain among my favourite genres in horror and I’ll likely always hold a certain sentiment towards each I encounter. What is truly refreshing, imaginative and what sets Sean Munger’s novel into a class of its own is the use of the Doppelganger folklore and the sinister circumstances it embodies. I highly look forward to taking another Munger reading adventure but it may be sound advice to know just where to forward the therapy bills after.
By Dave Gammon