by Jan Lara
September 1, 1988
Warner Books-Popular Library Edition
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hey Gang! This is my first review in my new Thursday Throwback Thrift Store Thrillers series. In here, I am going to feature older books that I have picked up used and want to show off. Often the authors may be one-hit wonders, and sometimes not. If they are still available, I’ll do my best to find a source. All ready? HERE WE GO!
This week’s pick is LIMBO a snazzy paperback written by Jan Lara, which I’m going to guess is a pseudonym for Mike Hinkemeyer since he holds the copyright. The cover is an arresting picture of a demonic looking girl inside a silver box that is trapped in black thorny vines. Yikes! Love it! This was reason number one for picking up this book. The other was the headline: A Force of Limbo Will Turn Their Lives into HELL!
Well that sounds like a good thing to read about! LIMBO is actually quite well written. The pace is fast with lots of sub-stories that initially don’t seem connected, but then, BAM! They do. Oceanville seems like a classic small town where everybody knows everybody and it’s pretty damn hard to keep a secret. Even if you think you have one, like the alcoholic priest, Father Jacklin, you don’t. Most of the residents just go about their rather dull day-to-day lives until Maribeth Hall returns to town with her little girl and shakes things up. All of the sudden the residents find out that maybe they don’t know everything about Oceanville after all.
Maribeth must return to town because her husband got killed by a car. That’s bad enough, but even worse was that he didn’t have any insurance. This puts Maribeth in the spot of having to return to her deceased parents’ home and get a job. All of which starts on a sour note because she has to evict the current tenants who are the parents of Oceanville’s class-A jerk-ola, Blake Brandon. Brandon is always wanting to get even with someone, or figuring out ways to rip people off. That’s what trips his trigger. His hook to hang Maribeth on is her romantic and sexual fling with the town’s number one player, Teddy Rogers. Brandon gets something for his trouble, but it’s not Maribeth’s nonexistent insurance money.
As her presence in town gets everyone jangled up and freaked out, Maribeth gets some strange action at her folks’ house. While her daughter Debbie is putting away toys in her new bedroom, something tears her Snoopy doll to bits and starts calling Maribeth “Mommeeee…” Weird but not too scary. Until the ethereal girl keeps coming back and visiting others like Blake Brandon when Debbie wishes they were dead. Meanwhile poor Father Jacklin can’t stop drinking to try and cover up how bad he feels. It seems that twelve years ago, he pardoned the sin of a certain young girl (Maribeth) who’d had an abortion because she’d had some great sex with someone she couldn’t marry (Teddy Rogers) and it has been eating away at him since.
Turns out that the nurse who did the illegal abortion was an unhappily unmarried woman with no children and in a sort of perverse way, used the aborted fetus to have a spiritual child. But when the biological mother comes to town, everything goes haywire. The soul of the child that never was, wants desperately to be a loved child. So she begins with everything and everybody who gets in her way, including an idiotic righteous trio of sisters, and even the creepy high school administrator dudes. Explosions, blowing up shotguns, and reducing people into atoms of bloody mess is how this demon stuck in Limbo rolls. All this excitement finally brings the buff but kind of brainless Teddy Rogers to his senses. He realizes what he missed out on, including his own kid and does what he can to fix the situation. The result is a vast change in the town and the loss of his life. By making that sacrifice Teddy helps many people and hopefully sets Oceanville on a happier course.
Romance, family, trapped sprits, and redemption. LIMBO has them all. If you can round up a copy of this 80’s horror paperback, GRAB IT!