Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"The Playroom" by Gloria Murphy

Victoria Louise is a beautiful woman who has just moved into a house in the town of Bradley. Little does anyone realise is that Victoria is really Rosalie Salino, the former occupant of the house, who used to be a fat, unpopular high school student. Plastic surgery has transformed her into a stunning sexpot, but she's unfortunately just a teensy bit psychotic as well. She still hasn't recovered from the tortures visited upon her during her high school years, and has developed a very special plan of revenge.

She hires Rusty Erlich to do up her house's playroom. Rusty is the one boy Victoria/Rosalie loved, and he wasn't as much of an asshole as the rest of his friends, so she spends a lot of time trying to seduce him, but he only has eyes for Rae Lemkin, another girl from high school he never really knew existed. When she isn't busy coming on to Rusty, Victoria is tracking down the remaining high school folk who bullied her, luring to them house under false pretenses, drugging them and tying them up in a separate room of the house. Once the playroom is finished, Victoria has a major party for everybody planned.

Ahhh, the treasures you can pick up at an Op Shop for 50c! I really enjoyed "The Playroom". It reminded me very much of some lost 80's movie classic rendered obsolete by the advent of DVD. Although marketed as a horror tale, this one is more of a psychological thriller. There's no sex and very limited violence. Rather, it provides a long, tasty build-up to the 'party' that Victoria has planned for everybody. As for Victoria, although she's a complete loony, she's strangely sympathetic. This kept me involved in the story. I also liked Rusty. Sure, he stood back and let the bullying happen as a high school student, but he felt bad about it, and never participated. Thankfully, he never lets his guilt make him a martyr.

"The Playroom" has just enough nastiness to give it an edge without making the proceedings unpleasant. While I did get annoyed with the sudden introduction of a character called Sally late in the novel (why did we spend so much time with her?), it was not enough to take me out of the book. This is a well-crafted suspense tale, and while a thorougly B-grade affair, it's a damn good one. It wasn't until I was doing a little research on the Internet that I found out Gloria Murphy authored the novel "A Whisper In The Attic", about a psychotic child, a book which I read a couple of years ago and really enjoyed as well.

I'll definitely be doing what I can to check out more of her work.

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