Book Review: The Killing Room, John Manning

book review, genre fiction, mixed genre, paranormal, poor editing, writing life, writing peeves November 15, 2010

Okay, here’s my new attempt at blogging! I’m shooting for three times a week. Someone poke me if I’m not back on Wednesday. Monday will be book review day. This is good for me, since it will prompt me to read at least one book per week. Sometimes that’s hard because I’m balancing school with kids with house with pets with husband with life… but it’s important for a writer to also be a reader.

Anyway, I finished my assignment for my Writing About Popular Fiction class and went looking for something to read. I ended up in the sunroom with the cat on my lap. This book happened to be within reach, so I grabbed it. Can’t make the cat move.

On to my  review of The Killing Room by John Manning.

A friend loaned me this book, so I’m not sure where it was shelved in the bookstore. Horror? Nah. Nystery? Not really. Thriller? Maybe.

Premise: a generations-old family curse is killing off the Youngs. Once every ten years they must meet for a reunion at the family estate in Maine. One person, whose name is chosen from a lottery, must spend the night in a basement room. Only one family member has ever lived the night, and she’s catatonic. Howard Young, the family patriarch at 98 years old, has hired a former FBI agent, a specialist in paranormal cases, to break the curse once and for all. Carolyn Cartwright arrives at the Young estate skeptical, but ready to do business. Many factors come into play here, including Carolyn’s own tormented past, family secrets, greed, and pride.

So what exactly is this book? The mystery of the killing room is a good one, but the details of what happen in the room remain a little fuzzy throughout the book. The answer is revealed in the end and a resolution is found. There are some elements of horror, including a little gore and some violence. The mix of mystery and horror may classify this as a thriller, but I’m not convinced. There is also a romantic element, but it’s sweet, not edgy, and does not lend itself to the thriller classification. I expect more tension from a thriller or a horror, and if there’s a romantic element in either of those genres, it’d better be incredibly tense with some amazing sex. Not here.

One issue I have with paranormal elements is that they remain consistent. If a writer introduces a paranormal element, like ghosts, then the other paranormal elements have to fit in with that “genre” of paranormal, or there better be a really good excuse as to why it’s something different. This novel (and this might be a bit of a spoiler, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know more) uses ghosts/malicious spirits as the main type of paranormal and then brings in a zombie. If there was a good reason for the zombie to make an entrance, I might have bought it. But in this novel it feels like the author ran out of ideas and brought in an element just for the scare factor. The zombie yanked me right out of the story and I threw my hands up.

I was sorely disappointed by the amateurish writing style.
“Inside the linen closet Ryan slowly lowered his hands from his ears.The house had fallen eerily quiet. The screaming and crashing and the gunshots had stopped. When the commotion had begun, Ryan had looked over the bannister into the foyer below and seen a scar-faced man on Douglas’s back raising a knife. Without even a moment’s hesitation, Ryan had turned on his heel and run down the hall, scurrying into the nearest hiding space he could find. For the next hour– or had it been less than that?– he had kept as still in the closet as possible, his hands clamped over his ears to drown out the sounds of his family being murdered, one by one” (p. 322).

I count seven “hads” in that paragraph. Someone very wise once told me most “hads” can be eliminated from writing. This section is representative of the book, lots of grammar errors and typos, just things that the writer should know better than to do and things that an editor could catch.

I give this book a C. It’s a fun read and I like the idea of the family curse, but the ends were not neatly tied and the errors in writing and publishing really detract from the book.

Work cited:

Manning, John. The Killing Room. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2010.


Tattooed writer with an attitude seeks like minded people who appreciate snark and ink. Or snarky ink.

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