First published back in September of 1980, ‘Satan’s Snowdrop’ added another title to the already impressive back-catalogue of graphic pulp horror novels for which author Guy N Smith had fully established his name within the horror circuit with.
Located close to the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland stands a large wooden mansion named ‘La Maison des Fleurs’ (‘The House of Flowers’). However, the property had recently been purchased by the Pennant family who planned to live in the property for a short while before having it laboriously taken down and shipped piece-by-piece to Long Island. There, the unusual mansion will be erected once again in a more homely environment, whereupon the Pennant’s will either inhabit the mansion or sell it on for an impressive mark-up.
However, during the brief time the family spend in the house before it is shipped back, they find themselves subjected to a number of eerie and seemingly unexplainable occurrences that increase in hostility with each occurrence. Starting off with a simple recurring stench of putrefaction that wafts throughout the house on random occasions, the hauntings develop a much more serious side with the unexpected death of a friend who had been staying over after a welcoming party at the house. Next, the family begin to witness visitations of ghostly figures crying out for help, along with the figure of a man who projects pure evil.
Veronica Pennant has witnessed too much already. Their son Tod Pennant is equally scared of the macabre house, but Al Pennant, whose hard work and effort has led to the purchase of the property, is determined to see the restoration and re-location through to the end. However, after coming face to face with one of the visitations himself, Al Pennant decides to take his family back to the States for the winter, only to return to ‘La Maison des Fleurs’ in springtime to make sure the re-location goes smoothly.
With the disassembly of the house now fully underway, the workmen soon become subjected to the evil that seems so powerfully present within ‘La Maison des Fleurs’. Soon enough, one workman is killed in a seemingly freak accident, scaring the other labourers away from the job. However, Pennant successfully secures a new firm of workmen to see through the property’s re-location, and all is finally set for the house to be re-built in Long Island. But when the last of ‘La Maison des Fleurs’ is taken down, the secret burial place of the Reichenbach torture victims is unearthed from underneath the property's foundations.
After the dramatic death of their son at the hands of the evil presence that inhabits the house, Veronica attempts to take her own life, leaving Al Pennant finally deciding to sell the freshly re-located property to the one person he knows who will take it - Bruce Parlane.
The house is once again disassembled and this time shipped over to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Bruce and his family move in. But sure enough, after a while the house once again begins to reveal its dark and evil underside. For within the walls of the wooden mansion, lurks a terrible secret history. A horrific evil that took place within the mansion at the hands of Reichenbach family. An evil that has left its mark on the very fibres of the building. An evil that had soaked into the very walls of ‘La Maison des Fleurs’ and has now allowed the evil Nazi torturer who died at the hands of one of his victims in this very building, to once again walk the floorboards of this macabre house. The very same house that a brand new family have taken up residence in. Their fate is almost sealed...
Atmospherically speaking, this is nothing short of a monumentally dark and oppressive piece of fiction. From the very outset, Smith delivers a disturbingly dark undertone of haunting menace that successfully projects a thoroughly uneasy air to every occurrence in the novel, no matter how mundane or trivial it may seem.
The constantly mounting tension is second to none, with each glimpse of the evil lurking behind the novel's macabre location cutting through the reader. When the evil visitations come, they come with impact. Smith unleashes a no-holds-barred approach to these ghostly presences, mixing in an eerie supernatural situation with a viciously gritty delivery. Indeed, many of these scenes veer towards the downright shocking, with graphic depictions of sadistic torture leaving behind a vivid imprint of the utter evil that lies within the walls of the house.
As the story unfolds further, deaths become increasingly more frequent as a greater number of people are subjected to the evil within the house. Throughout this, Smith maintains a fast-paced and tightly written storyline, full of dramatic surprises and elaborate twists in fate. Although the plot is of a very singular ‘haunted house’ nature, Smith instead pulls the static location of the tale away from its roots, throwing the storyline around until its finally ready for the grim finale.
Further still, with the novel building in tension with each turn of the page, the suspense mounts up to an almighty crescendo at this eventual grande finale. Here we see a dramatic and twisted ending, with Smith unleashing a truly inspired yet deeply disturbing showdown, packed to the very rafters with hard-hitting pulpish delights.
For the sheer abundance of unashamedly pulpy horror that this novel emits from each and every page, this tale is second to none. The additional elements of the symbolic snowdrop that Smith incorporates throughout the length of the tale, gives the story an added level of evil that quite simply chills the spine.
The characters themselves are lifelike throughout, with a great level of care taken to forming and developing each one. This helps to further draw in the reader, with character-to-reader bonds quickly forming that simply intensifies the haunting horror that these characters become subjected to.
This is certainly a strong contender for the highlight of this incredibly prolific writer’s career. Even the cover artwork maintains the symbolic dark quality that makes it stand out from the rest of Smith’s work. All in all this is a non-stop ride through the very bowels of hell, that will keep you gripped from start to finish.
The novel runs for a total of 219 pages.
© DLS Reviews