A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson, where have you been all my life? I read I Am Legend after the movie came out, but for unknown reasons, I never further investigated the author. That was six years ago; I was right on the precipice of discovery, but alas, it was not meant to be. For some reason, it was meant to be on Wednesday. Apparently, Audible thought that since I had read Rosemary’s Baby, I might also enjoy Richard Matheson’s A Stir of Echoes. This brought back memories of a VHS tape obtained from Hollywood video at some point during my adolescence – a VHS tape featuring none other than Kevin Bacon. Since I remembered seeing the film but not exactly what I saw, I bought the book and immediately searched for Richard Matheson on Amazon. This guy has written loads of novels and stories, and it looks like he has written them well. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Like most bibliophiles, I suffer from rather intense anxiety when I don’t know what I will be reading next. I like to have a list prepared at least two weeks out, and I had been running dangerously low until re-discovering Matheson. But now, all is right in the word; especially since I legitimately enjoyed A Stir of Echoes.

The plot starts out innocently enough. Tom Wallace and his prego wife, Anne, attend a little soiree at their neighbors’ home. Tom’s brother-in-law, a hot shot psych major, brags about his powers of hypnosis, and the crazy things people will do when they are hypnotized. Skeptical of the whole process, Tom volunteers. Predictably, he does some goofy things under the power of suggestion. He comes out of it and everyone has a good laugh. Everything is fine and dandy, until Tom wakes up in the middle of the night to find a ghost in his home. As the week goes on, Tom finds himself suffering from psychic flashes and the occasional ability to read minds. While Anne starts to seriously question her husband’s sanity, Tom begins to suspect the validity of this new gift, and realizes that something from beyond might be trying to tell him something.

There were some moments in A Stir of Echoes that felt a little rushed and awkward; for instance, when the Wallace’s son is almost kidnapped by the obese babysitter. Why does Matheson dedicate so much time to describing this poor girl’s weight problem? Why does she try to kidnap the kid in the first place? She has no motive and babysits for other people in the neighborhood; was she going to sell him on the toddler black market? I kept waiting for this strange little episode to play some larger part in the novel as a whole, but it really does not (at least as far as I can tell).

Otherwise, this book has all of the essential elements for a thriller – marital woes, ghost sightings, psychic abilities, etc. The ending is a bit too chipper for my taste, but the story is fast-paced and compelling. I had a lot riding on A Stir of Echoes not sucking, and as it did not, I can continue my quest to read more Matheson until I have exhausted his works and my book-anxiety returns.

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