A creepy mind-twisting murder mystery that melds psychology and the mania of an old mental hospital and teases the story accompanied by hauntingly eerie photographs.
Dan Crawford has just arrived at college-sponsored camp for gifted high schoolers where the students have been moved to the oldest dorm Brookline, previously a mental hospital, because the others are being remodeled. A former foster kid, he’s pretty self-aware and independent. Immediately, he makes two friends: Jordan, a brilliant mathematician with a religious family who is also secretly gay, and Abby, a creative art geek whose family has ties to the asylum. Dan also has a roommate, Felix, an odd nerdy boy who is awkward and suddenly becomes obsessed with working out. When Dan first arrives at the asylum, he discovers an old photograph of a man with his eyes scratched out. Seeking a thrill, Dan, Jordan and Abby go exploring and find old records and other disturbing photographs in the depths of the old asylum. Suddenly, Dan is getting odd notes and having nightmares, dreaming and communicating with the disturbed man known as the warden, also named Daniel Crawford. Is this really happening or is Dan losing his mind? When the body count starts to rise, Dan knows he has to solve the mystery of Brookline or worse, he must suspect himself of the most horrible of crimes.
When Dan left Brookline, he thought all the episodes would be over. When he still is having nightmares, also shared by friends Abby and Jordan, Dan decides the asylum isn’t through with him. Worse, he’s been asked to visit Felix who has been under constant watch in a real mental facility. A deranged Felix connects the dots that send him, Abby, and Jordan back to college searching for clues behind , their nightmares, creepy antique carnival photographs, and four mysterious addresses. Pretending to be prospective college students, they are stuck with student mentors and discover that the carnival tradition has just returned after a long hiatus. New Hampshire College and Camford, the town, are hiding something awful, and Dan, Abby, and Jordan are determined to find out what and rid themselves of the horrors of Brookline forever. With Dan seeing visions and Abby hearing voices and people attacking them, will they succeed before they die or do they belong to this carnival of madness?
Though this series has been compared as a Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children read-a-like, all that it really has in common is the genre and possessing photographs. The overall feel and draw of this series is unlike Miss Peregrine in my mind. I think it is sufficient to read but not fantastic. It needs more depth, creepiness, and a more clear progression of events. That is to say, it shouldn’t be an easy mystery, but I can’t figure out if being mentally confusing was the purpose of the novel or just a side-effect. I liked Sanctum overall much better than I liked the first, but I liked the atmosphere of Asylum better than Sanctum. I think the character development wasn’t fully fleshed out, and the pace seemed somewhat slow for a creepy book. Still, if you like horror and you enjoy a bump-in-the-night read with quirk, you won’t be disappointed.