Verdict: Short, but perfectly formed, THE BABY MONITOR is a very smart, very human, and very skilfully-constructed horror novel.
It’s been fourteen months since Richard and Lissa Platte became parents, and ever since their infant son Asher joined the family his constant, terrified screaming has kept them awake at night. Bad dreams, says their doctor, but through their shared exhaustion the couple can’t help but feel that something more is at work – something darker and stranger that doesn’t intend to leave them alone.
Starting with the simple conceit of a pair of sleepless parents, Matt Ingwalson’s THE BABY MONITOR spins out into a hair-raising tale of a couple on the edge. Indeed, on several edges: their marriage, their sanity, their secrets and their relationship with their child all tremble in the balance. No wonder they’re tense. Add to that the creeping possibility of something supernatural and malevolent, and you have an atmosphere of suspended horror so thick you could cut it with the sharp end of a hammer.
What strikes me about THE BABY MONITOR is just how deftly Ingwalson switches between different flavors of horror. At times the story verges into the uncanny and the surreal, and at times the actions of the characters themselves are the source of our unease. He weaves his way from the sublime horror of voices in the night to the paralysed fear of a stressed parent whose child has just been evicted from daycare. It’s a clever narrative – one that knows how to play with your expectations, and one that isn’t shy about ramping up the tension. That said, the conclusion is a stroke of genius; utterly surprising, and yet skilfully foreshadowed throughout.
Ingwalson’s written style is pleasingly balanced. His descriptions of both parents driving while tired are sufficient to make your own eyes itch with imagined sleep deprivation. Similarly, the pacing and construction of the story never falter. There are moments of visceral gore which might be off-putting to some, and moments of disquieting reflection on the realities of love and marriage, which might be off-putting to others. Ultimately though, this is a very smart, very human, and very skilfully-constructed horror novel.
~Krishan Coupland for IndieReader