Like haunted house stories? How about a haunted city? In BAD GLASS by Richard E. Gropp, Spokane, Washington has been evacuated by the government and locked down by the military after an epidemic of bizarre occurrences. After several years, Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, sneaks into the quarantined city in search of fame. He finds that there are still people living in the city and connects with one group. Together, they will face the demons in the city as well as their own. Are the bizarre happenings all in their head? Or are they real?
The tension provided by such a beautiful premise, as well as Gropp’s setup and beginning, draws you right in. Dean’s first encounter with the horrors of the city will chill you. Unfortunately, after that, the story blows its tension and gets bogged down in interpersonal relationships, overshadowing the horror element. The group Dean connects with is comprised of damaged people who spend huge amounts of time and energy on each other’s problems rather than the very real problem that the city is trying to kill them. They recognize the city has its horrors but often refuse to discuss or even acknowledge one another’s individual experiences as real. Dean sees horrible things involving people who are apparently still alive but does nothing to help them. The ultimate mystery of the city will keep you reading to the end, and the ending is satisfying to an extent, but it doesn’t build tension the way LOST or Peter Cline’s 14 does.
Gropp’s a good writer and his flair for description is awesome. He writes character and interpersonal relationships with a lot of heart. He found a killer premise. In the end, however, BAD GLASS just didn’t work for me. It’s a good book that is finding its fans, but for this reader, I just kept wanting it to be something else–a true thriller with a tightly focused plot about people trapped in a haunted city who must solve its mystery before it kills them.