Let me tell you what I thought about The Between by Tananarive Due.
I am a snob when it comes to my reading time. I'll read short stories until the apocalypse, especially those written by real, live People I KnowTM, but novels...I need some pretty strong recommendation. As a wannabe writer, I want to emulate the best of the best, and that starts with my reading selections.
The Between was mentioned on this list, posted at the Horror Writer's Association website. I read the blurbs online, checked out Amazon reviews, and decided that this one was it. But it wasn't. Not for me, anyway.
Hilton James has been having bad dreams...he nearly drown as a boy, his grandmother saved him but died in the process. The trick: she had already died once before. Now it seems Hilton is stuck in "the between"--not alive, not dead. Top that off with a racist terrorist that has threatened Hilton's wife, Dede (the only black judge in Dade County, Florida), and the book has its share of suspense.
The story was fine...spooky enough and a little different...but the prose threw me off. The author has worked in the newspaper industry (a features writer and columnist at the Miami Herald), and I hear a journalistic style in the novel. Every character is given a reporterly description, no matter how minor--"middle-aged white woman in black clothes," "Four boys, two white, two black"--at points the prose commits the ultimate "tell instead of show" sin.
Also, I just didn't connect with Hilton as much as I should have to really care about his lot. I loved his wife and kids (both quite precocious), but Hilton didn't really gel for me. His therapist (Raul) and police buddy (Curt) were more genuine characters. Hilton came off as a man to which bad things happened...and sometimes I wondered why he didn't fight back more when reality slipped away.
I've heard Due's later novel, Soul to Keep, is a better read. I might try it after a while. For now, The Between scores a 3/5 for me: a well-written book that just wasn't quite tight enough.
The more I read, the more book blurbs become meaningless. Case in point from the front cover: "A finely honed work that always engages and frequently surprises." - New York Times Book Review
"Always" is a pretty powerful word and shouldn't be used lightly.