The Bottom Line: Harrowing hotel horrors continue in this satisfying follow-up to Level Zero.
The second entry in Dan McDowell’s Nightmare in Riverton series begins as Nancy Helbens Richards and her husband, Ron, quibble about money and appear to be on the brink of divorce. But those problems pale in comparison to external forces.
First, photos of Nancy are inexplicably strewn about with vulgarities and inverted crosses drawn across them. Next, they arrive home from a date to find that their babysitter is tied up, and seven-year-old son, Randy, is missing. Pieces of Randy’s scalp and hair are found in the fridge.
Even more disturbing? Randy’s father doesn’t want to call the police.
Meanwhile across town, a priest arrives to bless the newly renovated Oak Hollow Hotel, only to end up victim to the dark forces at hand. McDowell does much with an entity called “the Shadow,” who, among other things, forces people to relive their worst memories. And a food writer named Vic Ramsey is pushed by his editor to pick up a story on the hotel that a deceased colleague left unfinished.
As to the grisly events that took place at the hotel, the editor calls them, “the fiascos.” One book into the series, McDowell has successfully created a sense of lore about the place that serves as both a magnet for curiosity and something so frightening that its horrors are often talked around. The result is a deep dive into personal fears, trauma and the seemingly real demons lurking in and about Riverton.
While McDowell introduces a myriad of new characters and elements, the journey into the bowels of this chilling adventure is ultimately linear.
Reading volume one, Level Zero, is essential. Fortunately, horror fans will love getting in on the ground floor.