The Bottom Line: Dead Works is an alluring nightmare you won’t want to wake up from anytime soon. As frightening as it is clever, Anthony Hains has created a paranormal thriller that will have even the most ironclad skeptics sleeping with the light on. Read it.
When we first meet Anthony Hains’ protagonist, university psychologist Eric Hansen, it’s hard to imagine that the patients he is presumably charged with helping could be filled with more anxiety and self-doubt than he is. It’s an attractive irony that sets the stage for his first session with 13-year-old Greg, a boy who immediately asks whether Eric believes in ghosts.
Eric is in just his second year of his counseling psychology program, a factor that gives him the necessary vulnerability make us care about him, even as we are witness to the snarky internal observations he makes about Greg’s parents. As we soon learn, Greg has presumably been seeing apparitions of dead children roaming outside his bedroom window at his father’s house.
Going back a year, we’re privy to another counseling session with a student named William, whose opening line is a stunner: “I thought I’d be dead by now.” Why? You guessed it – he’s haunted by something truly demonic.
If you like the intensity of counseling sessions as told in fiction, Dead Works is for you, as the plot unfolds through a series of harrowing reveals during Eric’s appointments. This is where the book really shines, as Hains is himself a clinical psychologist. As a result, observing the balance Eric treads between what he knows of the world and what he intuitively believes is riveting reading.
It’s all a great setup for the inevitable, as we move away from the clinic and Eric actually witnesses what he’s feared all along.