*** Out of 5
Release Date- 1990
Written by- Robert Bloch
Psycho House is the third part of the Psycho trilogy and in my opinion by far the weakest of the three. With that said though the book is still a decent enough read and only took me a couple of days to finish it. Psycho House isn’t quite the page turner Psycho was or Psycho II. And while the book is a decent read its just never as interesting as the first two novels. Norman isn’t in the book as by this time he’s dead and while he does drive the plot it just didn’t feel right without him. I suppose some of those feelings stem more from the films since in Psycho II (novel) he’s mostly just mentioned with only a few chapters, but difference between Psycho II and Psycho House is the threat of Norman is always present as we have no idea what his fate is. So even if Norman played a minor role it was also vital in a sense it just didn’t seem right without him at all. As I stated in my reviews for the other novels Norman was more or less the same in the original novel and film, but the couple of changes allowed both the film and novel for Psycho II to craft a totally different Norman and have both work well within their media. But different Norman or not it just feels weird without him at all.
It’s been about 30-years since the murder of Mary Crane and 7-years since the events of Psycho II. The Bates house and motel have been rebuilt and is a tourist attraction. Amy Haines is a writer and after her first true crime book was a success she’s now working on a book about Norman Bates, but Fairvale being a small town they don’t take kindly to outsiders and are less than happy about Amy asking all these questions and digging up the past. Right before Amy arrives a young girl is killed in the Bates house and soon more murders begin to happen and soon enough Amy herself ends up getting involved trying to figure out who is picking up where Norman left off.
The opening of the novel is very slasher like and while it has some decent suspense it’s sort of brought down by subpar writing. After the opening chapter the writing begins to improve. While Psycho was a mixture of crime and horror, Psycho II was more horror than anything else. Psycho House sort of goes back to the original in some ways and if anything is more of a detective story with a little bit of horror whereas Psycho mixed both those aspects together. Psycho was interesting in the fact it’s a mystery only we know who the killer is (or thought we did), but everything else is sort of like a mystery even if we know a bit more than the characters that are investigating. Even Psycho II is a mystery maybe more so since we don’t know if Norman is the killer or dead. Psycho House though is much more of a murder mystery and Amy Haines sort of a detective. I liked the idea behind the novel, but at times it just wasn’t very interesting though never really boring either.
Psycho House also sort of goes supernatural as demonic possession is also explored, but this plays a very small role and was just an idea by a demonologist. Its not a major force in the book, but the couple of chapters keep this as an option of being possible. Best way to put it if it turns out that way it wouldn’t be a shocker, but if it doesn’t it won’t feel like a time waster.
What bothers me most about Psycho House is again it had all the right ideas, but yet something wasn’t fully working. Psycho to me is one of the great novels and one of my all time favorites. Psycho II was just as good if not better for most of the book until the final 60 or so pages when the narrative flow gets sloppy. But I still very much enjoyed it and just might make my top 10 novels, but here with Psycho House there really wasn’t much story left and it seems to me due to the success of the first two novels as well as the film series that’s the only reason for Psycho House as it doesn’t have much new to offer the story.
What does work is the return to Fairvale; Psycho II only had a few chapters there as the bulk was in Hollywood and while this worked in the novel it was still a welcome return. Amy was a strong lead character and is likable and helped keep me invested. The rest of the characters are solid and interesting but Bloch just didn’t write an interesting enough of a novel for them to carry it.
Another aspect of the book that does work well is Psycho House does make for a solid mystery. Everyone is a possible suspect and that’s the one thing that managed to keep me intrigued. While the identity of the killer may not be overly shocking, but I was still a bit surprised.
What’s sort of interesting to me is how in a way quality wise the books and films are on the same level. Bloch’s Psycho was excellent and the film a masterpiece. Psycho II both novel and film were also very good. But Psycho III was a clear drop from the first two films and Psycho House the 3rd in the book series was also a major decline. While granted both the film and book of Psycho II were made because of the success of the originals they at least didn’t feel like cash ins the way Psycho III & Psycho House do.
Overall Psycho House was a decent read and only took me a couple of days to read. The plot was strong as were characters and the mystery on who the killer is, but something is still lacking here. My review may not be overly glowing, but it was a good read with the potential for so much more. I think also since I loved the first two so much perhaps my expectations were too high, but in the end while I thought the book was ok it also was very disappointing after the first 2. Psycho House still comes recommend as despite the problems it’s an excellent mystery. If you’ve read the first 2 might as well go for the 3rd and final part.