If the characters in Blood Games were aware of the unwritten, but assumed (by genre fans anyway), rules of horror novels then they’d probably think twice about taking their yearly, week-long adventure and thrill seeking vacation at the now abandoned holiday-spot the Totem Pole Lodge.
But for the five girls, close friends since their hell-raising college days, if it doesn’t involve actions of excess, high-spirits and general risk-taking, then it’s probably not something worth pursuing.
Threads of some of the girls’ more extreme past actions, often in relation to injustices upon their ilk whilst in college, are peppered throughout the book, particularly in its early chapters. These are generally wild and crazy recollections, sometimes veering on the extreme, and offer a fair back-story regarding the characters whilst allowing Laymon to get down to the nitty-gritty of building the present-day story arc.
No sooner than the party arrives at the deserted lodge than they decide upon a bit of skinny dipping in the hot springs onsite (again, as characters in a horror novel they’re clearly not aware of those unwritten rules), and soon notice they’re being observed by a peeping-tom lurking in the margins. That someone is quick to make an exit on being spotted.
That the supposedly isolated site is not as deserted as they’d expected sets them slightly ill at ease. This feeling is turned up a few notches as Helen, the one who picked the Totem Pole Lodge for this year’s trip, lets the rest of the party in on the murky past of this former vacation-spot for hunters and their families.
Dark deeds were once committed by locals in the area, as revenge upon outsiders, and it seems that the lodge may yet have room for more foul play to visit itself upon these new and uninvited guests. Is the stalker in the shadows a threat, and could he have anything to do with the disappearance of one of the girls overnight…
Blood Games certainly isn’t one of Laymon’s stronger books. Personally I didn’t enjoy the way the back-plot weaves in a manner that’s a little disconnected from the other story being told at times. It also takes a while to get going, that is for it to really get into the more action-packed horror-pulp vein for which Laymon is known, and when it does it doesn’t seem to be too long before it’s all over. Thus it lacks the bite for which the author’s books are usually known. Though I very rarely say it in regards to the horror pulp oeuvre, the story here could’ve probably benefitted from being thinned out a fair bit.
When I think of Richard Laymon at his best I think of his Beast House books, and then of Flesh, The Stake, Funhouse, and Darkness Tell Us as just a few among his greats; but Blood Games fills a weird void of just being an okay read, albeit one from the imagination of one of the undisputed horror greats.
For the horror-novel fan looking for completion I’d say knock yourself out and give it a read; otherwise this is one you could in all probability safely miss. And for Laymon that’s generally an exception to the rule.
Buy this book (UK): Blood Games