Check-Out Time by Mark Rigney
Samhain Publishing (October 2014)
229 pages; $12.32 paperback/$4.99 ebook
Reviewed by Damon Smith
Check-Out Time is actually the fourth book in Mark Rigney’s “Renner & Quist” series, but outside of a few nods in the early part of the novel, knowledge of the prior books in the series are not necessary for you to enjoy this new entry.
While the book has a bit of trouble reaching its stride in its early pages, once it does, it truly becomes something unique, often showing a very refreshing take on what could be a run-of-the-mill ghost story in the hands of another writer. But those early chapters may be too slow to keep your interest for long.
Following the end of the prior book in the series, Reverend Renner is eager to return to a relatively quiet life. But that dream is quickly shattered by an invitation to the long-ago demolished Neil House hotel. Now, sucked into another mystery, Renner and Quist will soon learn that while all things must pass, some do not want to go quietly and that even stone and steel can carry a grudge.
While the book isn’t a laugh-out loud sort of experience, Rigney has a way of writing charming characters and interesting monsters and quite often the interactions between these characters left me with a smile on my face. Most admirably, there is a sense of genuine camaraderie between Renner and Quist despite their differences in personality. That goes a long way in a story like this.
Likewise, while the story never goes full on into horror, there are a few truly creepy moments, mostly on Quist’s side of the narrative. The hotel itself is quite an interesting locale, although a few of the most interesting details are left titillatingly unexplored. That may be in part due to the semi-historical nature of the story, as many of the events alluded to in the novel did in fact happen to the real-life Neil House. There are also several interactions with the ghosts that do a wonderful job of hammering home the point that they truly are from a long-gone time period.
Overall, once Check-Out Time gets rolling, it is certainly worth the money. An interesting mystery that ends up in a much more personal place by the end than its initial pagan-horror undertones seem to indicate. It just takes a little bit to hit that point of intrigue and suspense, and that time may be just too much for some readers.