Book Review, Over the Edge, by Hal Friedman
It has been my observation that a really good horror writer manages to make places and comfortable American traditions that are good, beautiful, and pleasant really awful.
The setting is so scenic, you can’t believe it could be that terrible.
Which is what Hal Friedman did at the scenic Delaware Water Gap in northwest New Jersey. Not only did he so contaminate the Delaware Water Gap, which rises high above the river of the same name, but he turned the fine institution of school -- eighth-graders in particular, like the crazy little monsters I used enjoy teaching so much -- and a well-respected seasoned teacher as well as an innocent new teacher into a great horror story.
Over the Edge describes the central mystery of Friedman’s book, which was published way back in 1998 by HarperPaperbacks, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299, but which is right up to date concerning where it takes place and the mystery itself.
Why did a seasoned and loved-by-the community teacher go over the edge of a cliff on a mountain overlooking the Delaware Water Gap? That’s the mystery.
The book’s lead-up to the tragic event that triggers this horror/mystery tale while the teacher was atop the mountain during a school outing with her elementary-school students reads, “Mrs. Wilkins prayed silently for someone to help her. She looked over her shoulder as she continued to flee. She couldn’t hear or see them any longer but was certain they were still behind her, somewhere.
“By the time she saw what was just ahead of her, it was too late to stop, and she let out a blood curdling scream that pierced the quiet at the edge of the earth.”
The question is just what did she see.
Gradually leading the reader to the answer, the story includes replacement teacher Meg Foley, her boyfriend of sorts and Los Angeles cop away from his troubled cop career to help Meg, a handful of students who must certainly be guilty, other adults who could or could not have dunnit, and the sudden conclusion of the mystery.
Fellow mystery writer James Patterson writes about the book on a page preceding the beginning of Over the Edge, “An extremely fast-paced and well-written thriller from page one until the final unexpected shocker. Hal Friedman gives grand master Mary Higgins Clark a run for her money when it comes to startling twists and turns.”
If you’re a fan of murder mysteries and their gore, including a bit of language from which eighth-graders may be sheltered although they are no doubt fully aware of and use such language, you may be facing your own mystery.
Where can I find this book?
I found my paperback edition in our town’s recycling center. You can try your town’s, of course, or try a local bookstore if one still exists in your neighborhood. You could try Google, Bing, or Ask.com, or perhaps poke around in a used book store stocked with wonderful oldsters in or out of print. One thing not a mystery is that the price inside the cover of mine, $6.99, is probably well outdated by now.
But find it, and you’ll be happy with this wonderful tale of horror.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012