The Bottom Line: McDowell’s newest nightmare is fresh, darkly funny and deserving of every horror fan’s attention.
The beating heart of Dan McDowell’s award-winning Nightmare in Riverton series is the infamous Oak Hollow Hotel. Far more than just a setting, the Oak Hollow has also served as the book’s primary center of gravity, suspense and suffering. In the tradition of the Amityville Horror, McDowell has further established the hotel as the series’ central character, around which new characters come and go with their own narratives.
While the establishment itself remains central to McDowell’s third series entry, Pool Man proves he isn’t content to simply rehash the formula that worked so well in the first two series books. McDowell introduces what may be his most compelling supporting character yet in Greg Preakle, who has the misfortune of being the pool man from its era as a public facility in the 1970s to the early 1990s, when a floating corpse body is discovered on his watch. Despite no obvious evidence linking him to a crime, Greg is fired, triggering a downward spiral that leads him to a game show called Twisted Hacks.
Aired on a local TV channel, the game is known in Riverton as “the alternative to homelessness” as well as “cable TV’s bloodiest quiz show.”While not quite as lethal as Squid Game, McDowell’s game show manages to be both terrifying and – for those of us with a dark sense of humor – hilarious. McDowell hooked me at “Wheel of Doomsday” and slayed me with the “Scalpatron.”
From there, McDowell takes the story to places that are just as weird and entertaining as the opening chapters. Prepare for a truly strange and entertaining family affair that still manages to be true to the series’ theme and tone.
Longtime series fans will appreciate hints at Riverton history spanning the decades. With that said, Pool Man is a perfect entry point for series newcomers.