Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Snow Garden By Christopher Rice, Republished with More Material, Becomes my First Personal Favorite for 2015

 "You live here?" she asked. Mitchell nodded, tugging his keys from his pocket as he moved past her.
He threw open the front door. She took a few hesitant steps into the darkened foyer. Mitchell flicked the switch and light from a brass chandelier fell on walls painted so white she almost squinted. She followed as Michell ducked into the living room. Another chandelier came on and she gasped.
Mitchell turned to see her reaction.
Kathryn held up both hands as if to shield her eyes.
"The Garden of Earthy Delights," Mitchell informed  her proudly.
It took up the entire living room wall, in vivid color and dizzying detail. She had glimpsed the painting bfore, but enlarged onto an entire wall its effect was overwhelming. The naked figures cavorting in a surreal garden of science fiction-like fountains and gently rolling hills looked like pure anarchy. The scene showed pleasure taken to its most ghastly extreme. From where she stood in the doorway the clusters of naked figures looked like swarming insects. The living room itself seemed designed not to disract from the reproduction. A faded Oriental rug covered the hardwood floor. The sofa and chairs were a muted beige. The other white walls suddenly made more sense; she guessed each one was a potential canvas.
As she approached the wall, she almost walked into the glass-topped coffee table; only its slight metal frame made it visible.
She felt Mitchell move next to her.
"Go ahead."
"It's too much."
It sho9uld be," Mitchell answered, not offended.
"What's it supposed to be? Heaven?
"Not even close. Earth."

After several long minutes, Randall got up, turned on his desk lamp, and returned his attention to Eric's book.
Twentieth-century viewers of Bosch's work have demonstrated a reluctance to view his Garden of Earthly Delights as a condemnation of human sexuality consonant with the established views of the medieval church. In particular, the central panel, with its deceptively beautiful depiction of a paradise earth, has been the subject of relentless speculation. Wilhelm Fraenger put forth a highly questionable but nonetheless wildly popular theory that the entire altarpiece was commissioned by a secret heretical cult known as the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and that the central panel is actually a depiction of the cult's religious rites. Little is known about the Brethren of the Free Spirit beyond the fact that their practices included some form of ritual promiscuity, and that its members believed that unrestrained sexual activity was a method they could use to return themselves to the state of purity possessed by Adam before the fall. Consequently, its members were also known as Adamites. However, it is impossible to isolate the central panel from the altarpiece, and objective viewers must not forget that only several inches to the left, the same figures who take delight in the earth's fleshly pleasures are punished in hell for their joy.
As if Eric would ever forget, Randall thought...

The Snow Garden
By Christopher Rice

I guess after working nearly 40 years on a university campus, the last years managing and directing the utilization of university facilities, I am naturally attracted to the college environment as a favorite setting for novels. Then, too, both this novel and The Density of Souls, which was published yesterday, create a feel of the dark gothic tone I've loved since I first starting reading adult novels. This one, especially, also presents one of the most fascinating mysteries of suspense I've read. The author has also included information about the original publishing, what was changed...and provide the readers an opportunity to get to know the author better.

The Snow Garden, originally published as Rice's second novel was his favorite of the first two. It is not similar to his debut except in his ability to hold readers in suspense and to a climatic ending, but more deeply reveals the writing genius that weaves a story that is ageless and certainly has a timeless story that will resonate for generations to come. 

The novel is amazing in the number of twists that come into the story, none of which could have been anticipated, at least in my opinion. At first, it comes across as a somewhat typical college campus student environment, with a variety of sexuality issues spotlighted that could be faced by any students who are excitingly moving away from home and trying to settle into a totally different environment where freedom seems the logical assumption. Ahhh, but that is where the mystery starts because one after another of the students find that either their past greatly influences their new-found freedom--or the personal interactions with other students totally opposes their expectations.

Let's just say that I was happy my university classes were taken as a part-time, working individual who had no time or interest in the social environment of full-time students...

"How was the meeting?" Kathryn asked,
standing awkwardly as April got down on all
fours and dove headfirst into her closet, which
was two feet deep and voered with a tattered
curtain instead of a door.
"I Need a beer." She tossed a pair of her Gucci
boots out behind her. They landed at Kathryn's
"Did you know there was a black national
anthem?"...April had gone to a meeting of
the African American Student Alliance, and
from the tone of her voice, it was clear that
her worst fears had been confirmed.
"It was like the first day of high school. I
walked into the center and the only person
that would even talk to me was Marcel.
...But with me, see, being biracial is a
problem because all the real black women
there think I'm going to steal all the good
men. Good black men who would take a
half-white woman over them any day.
How's that for unity?"
Kathryn gently curved an arm around
April's back and rested her chin on
April's shoulder. "So I guess you didn't
tell them you were a dyke."
The Prologue raises immediate interest, but then drops from the story, leaving the reader beginning to see the mystery start but left dangling...

There was one thing that caught my attention that others might not--there was a mention of a former student who was now acting as the architect for buildings on the campus in a very modern style as compared to the rest of the campus. I immediately wondered why--didn't they have a campus master plan to prevent that sort of thing? LOL... Well, this mention was minor so I ignored it as something that just personally interested me... Assuming that the money contributed to the college was the reason the buildings were being accepted. I was happy though that some of the students were upset with the change...

Of course this added reason for my personal pleasure--in more ways than one I discovered...

The main scene for the book is in the dorm of a few main characters. Somehow, perhaps because of their background, although it doesn't say specifically, Randall Stone and Kathryn Parker had become very close friends, although not romantically. Randall, she knew was gay. To me, her need for a gay friend was quickly apparent when we learn her past. And, to a great extent, so also for Randall...

Then we have Randall's roommate who seems to be on campus purely to see how many girls he can get into bed... Having been designated as roommates places an ironic twist in itself as Randall is confronted with not being able to get in his room often... BTW, it was a coed facility, which was an unusual twist for me to accept given the time frame. In fact, it led to some of the relationship issues, as girls who had been hurt by his promiscuity would no longer come to visit their friends on that floor...

Randall removed a silver flask from the inside pocket of
his jacket, accidentally or on purpose flashing the Helmut
Lang label...Eric felt hugely foolish because he was so
nervous that he had just offered one of his students--a
freshman--alcohol...Eric moved past him into the living
room, turning on lamps as he went. Light fell in stages,
and when it hit the reproduction of The Garden of Earthly
Delights, Eric heard a small gasp.
...I've read your book," he said nonchalantly, his back to
Eric as he stared up at the framed print above the bookcase...
His gaze traveled from Eric's to the print across the room.
"I bought a print of it too....
"Do you believe him?"
Neil Patrick Harris seemed to fit the personality of Randall... A good-looking guy with a mysterious background, or at least one he was unwilling to share...
It was too easy for Eric to think he
could have prevented it all by not
answering the front door...But the
loud series of knocks startled him
and he was standing halfway down
the stairs. Early October dusk
darkened the foyer, and on the
other side of the door a shadow
was cupping its hands against the
glass pane, trying to peer inside.
"Professor Eberman?"
He didn't recognize the voice,
but no one called him Professor
Eberman. His colleagues called
him Eric...and so did most of his
grad students...His undergraduates
...rarely called him anything...
"Professor Eberman..." There
was a pleading note in the voice
now and it drew he
saw the boy...he fought the
urge to slam the door shut in his
face. His name was Randall Stone;
the only reason Eric knew this was
because after spotting him in the
second row on the first day of
lecture, Eric went back to his
office and leafed through his
copy of that year's freshman
face book. A perfectly harmless,
private activity...

But we find that he had come to campus to meet Professor Eric Eberman, who had written a book delving into "The Garden of Earthly Delights," which had been painted centuries ago, but which seemed to continue to garner study and research by others, including Eberman (my choice Richard Gere).

Eberman was married by his wife had a sister with cancer and was away from home one weekends...

She awoke to the theme from Shaft.
Strange shapes drifted across the far wall and she sat up, groping for the halogen lamp next to her bed. The torchiere sent light to the ceiling, its styrofoam panels still scarred by the design of the beer bottle caps that she had found embedded in them on the day she moved in three months before. It was just eight p.m. Snowflakes were falling past the window, casting their shadows on the cinder-block wall on April's side of the room. Now that the roar of her nightmare had retreated, she was once again aware of the persistent and grating combustion of Stockton Hall, a four-story beehive of disconnected adolescents announcing their new collegiate identities with stereos turned up too loudly, wailing over the difficulty of their first midterms, their conversations ending in punch lines followed by explosions of forced laughter. Next door, the sounds of Shaft gave way to the earnest tones of television actors...Kathryn didn't know how she had managed to sleep through it all.
Randall's story had caused her nightmare. She reached for it on her desk.
The town of Drywater, Texas, exists because a woman named
Elena Sanchez was killed by a train...
Elena's only son, Ricky, didn't find this out until he was fifteen.

A bolt of silence struck. Eric fought the urge to ask
Randall if that was what he truly wanted--for Eric to
leave his wife of almost twenty years. But that question
would bring on a cascade of others and Randall
wouldn't be able to tolerate the answers, despite his
adult composure. The result would be the destruction
of the private world they had created in this darkened
bedroom, a world that allowed Eric to satisfy a thirst
that had gone unquenched for two decades.
"Where are you going?" Eric asked, suddenly aware that the idea of Randall leaving him alone again twisted something tight in his stomach.
"A party."
"So I was just a pit stop?"
Randall turned from the window. "Are you asking me to spend the night?"
"She not coming back."
"I know." Randall returned his attention to the flakes falling with determined force past the window.
"Sometimes I think she might never come back," Eric added, unnerved by Randall's silence.
"That would be easy, wouldn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean it would be easier than leaving her."


It wasn't very long before Eric's wife was killed when she was on her way to her sister's home, but instead crashed over a cliff...

Of course, that type of accident would cause an eruption of news and rumors all over campus. The first of which was if it truly was an accident or was it murder. No matter what was happening officially, Randall could not stop thinking of some of their conversations. He began his own investigation...

In the meantime, Kathryn had become interested in the grad student to Professor Eberman. The secrets started to fall apart, as part of the overall gossip, especially from one student who was working for the college newspaper. He and Randall had hooked up earlier in the year and now Randall had approached him, using their past relationship, to get him to help in his investigation.

Sooooo much more is happening on that campus and/or in the lives of those in that somewhat small circle of characters. It was only when the talk about the possible homicide that Professor Eberman was placed in a position of his secrets coming out... And that involved more than Randall...

Enough, I've shared only about the characters, since the novel is definitely character-driven. But the actual mystery and suspense is for readers to discover on their own! It's  Literally  Unbelievable... Readers will move into horror scenes that will in the end explain the title of the book, in a most decidedly unique, macabre manner that will chill and totally surprise all! At least for me, that is... Let me know if you even began to glimpse the ending for this one! The intricacy of his story is pure genius. For those mystery and suspense fans, I believe you will find, like me, that it is far superior to many tales of mystery and will doubtless be timeless in its top place in great suspense novels.

A masterpiece everybody should consider. In additional to other materials, the author has included his first ending which the publishers rejected... I'll agree that I prefer the revised, but I would have totally accepted the original as quite appropriate with the ending theme... Brilliant!


By the age of 30, Christopher Rice had published four New York Times bestselling thrillers, received a Lambda Literary Award and been declared one of People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive. His first work of supernatural suspense, THE HEAVENS RISE, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. His debut, A DENSITY OF SOULS, was published when the author was just 22 years old. A controversial and overnight bestseller, it was greeted with a landslide of media attention, much of it devoted to the fact that Christopher is the son of legendary vampire chronicler, Anne Rice. Bestselling thriller writer (and Jack Reacher creator) Lee Child hailed Christopher's novel LIGHT BEFORE DAY as a "book of the year". Together with his best friend, New York Times bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Quinn, Christopher launched his own Internet radio show. THE DINNER PARTY SHOW WITH CHRISTOPHER RICE & ERIC SHAW QUINN is always playing at and every episode is available for free download from the site's show archive or on iTunes. 

47North, the science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint of Amazon Publishing, recently published Rice's supernatural thriller, THE VINES. Rice's first erotic romance, THE FLAME: A Desire Exchange Novella, will also be published on November 11th as part of the 1,001 DARK NIGHTS series. Thomas & Mercer, the crime fiction imprint of Amazon Publishing will release new editions of his previous bestsellers A DENSITY OF SOULS, THE SNOW GARDEN and LIGHT BEFORE DAY on December 9th, 2014.

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