Sydney Fitzmaurice is a child of Arkham who has moved on to bigger and better things. Jeany Lin and Renee Love are orphans who ran away to the bright lights of Hollywood. They’ve been working with Sydney for a few years now. Renee is his brilliant leading lady, the star of all his Fitzmaurice horror flicks. Jeany designs and creates all the costumes and a good deal of the props. Together with a few other dedicated crew members, they turn out hit after hit. Now Sydney has promised the studio the biggest hit ever. But to film it he insists on returning to his ancestral home in Arkham.
A Hollywood horror movie filming in Arkham? What could possibly go wrong? Find out what in Rosemary Jones’ Mask of Silver.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Mask of Silver contains some spoilers!]
No one is what they seem in this Arkham Horror novel
Mask of Silver begins in Hollywood, not Arkham. It’s here we meet Jeany, Renee, Sydney, Fred, and the rest of the Fitzmaurice horror crew. We quickly learn that in Hollywood, no one is who they appear to be. Everyone has come to reinvent themselves.
That’s certainly true for orphans Jeany and Renee. Their jealousy guards the secrets of their past, especially the fact that they’re sisters. This is because they’re also half-Chinese and there’s a strong prejudice against the Chinese people at this time. Jeany shows her heritage clearly but Renee can pass for white. This allows Renee to star on screen while Jeany is relegated to working behind the stage.
However, if anyone ever learned of their relationship they would know that Renee also had Chinese heritage and then it wouldn’t matter how white she looked, she’d never act as a leading lady again. So they keep their secret. Unfortunately, they’re so busy hiding their secret that they never stop to wonder what others may be hiding, or why.
A trip back home from Hollywood to Arkham
On the heels of their latest successful picture, Sydney promises the studio the biggest movie ever. There’s just one catch, he can’t shoot it in Hollywood. At a time when “on location” shooting didn’t really exist, Sydney promises the studio that he can film a better movie for less money if they let him film it at his family home in Arkham, Massachusetts. To everyone’s surprise, except maybe Sydney’s, the studio agrees. The whole crew packs up their stuff into five first-class train cars and heads east.
They arrive in Arkham to learn that not only are they filming in Sydney’s old home, which is a veritable mansion, but they are staying there as well. Renee is not happy, she wants the luxury and privacy of a hotel. Jeany isn’t happy either, but for different reasons. Something about the Fitzmaurice house is off and she would give anything to be back in Hollywood. But she won’t leave her sister so she’s stuck in Arkham, hoping her bad feeling stays just that, a feeling, and nothing more.
Mask of Silver burns slowly
This novel is a slow-burn tale. The tension and unease build slowly as one odd thing after another happens. But nothing so strange that it can’t be explained away, if somewhat uneasily. It’s the accumulation of all these “accidents” and “coincidences” that causes our heroine, Jeany, to become convinced that something isn’t right in Arkham. But everyone else keeps writing them off as nothing and Jeany can’t abandon her sister.
Like the best horror movies, the monster is never seen directly, only viewed out of the corner of the eye, or in the flicker of some very peculiar mirrors. This keeps Jeany even more off balance because there’s nothing concrete that she can point to and say “see that, there! We need to go!”. She doubts her own instincts. Lucky for her and the rest of the crew the residents of Arkham have experience in these matters. They don’t interfere directly, probably aware that they would be brushed off as local crazies, but they give Jeany just enough information to trust herself. The question is, will it be in time?
Reveling in the pacing
I loved the pace of Mask of Silver. The slowly building tension was perfect. So often when we read (or watch) horror it seems like the characters make obvious mistakes and overlook huge red flags. We sit there screaming at them to get out and swear that if it was us we’d be smarter and just go at the first hint of trouble. But in Mask of Silver, you can’t really scream at the characters. I mean, you can, a little, it’s easy when you know it’s a horror story to see the signs. But the characters don’t know they’re in a horror story, so the little signs are easy for them to brush off.
Watching the unease grow in each person you can understand that rational people would excuse the small things happening throughout Mask of Silver, even if they did start to feel creeped out. It’s almost more unbelievable that Jeany did act to try and get everyone out rather than that everyone else resisted leaving. In fact, even Jeany tries to talk herself out of her uncomfortable feelings. It’s just such a natural attitude to have. We’ve all felt creeped out and sat and talked ourselves out of it. Rarely do we actually give in to those feelings and leave the creepy place. Luckily we’re not often in a horror tale so it’s usually okay.
Worth picking up
Rosemary Jones weaves a spell-binding tale of unease and apprehension in Mask of Silver. With a boogeyman as insubstantial as Sydney’s hooded man, it’s a different kind of terror than most of the Arkham Horror series. Instead of jumping from a very specific monster, we want to run from a feeling, an atmosphere.
I greatly enjoyed this different type of horror and think that anyone who enjoys the genre will also appreciate the change of pace. Rip the mask off this tale today and see just who hides behind the Mask of Silver.
My Rating: 9/10
Mask of Silver: An Arkham Horror Story by Rosemary Jones is available now! Are you interested in reading it? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord! And if you haven’t already, check out our review from the other latest Arkham Horror Novel, Lair of the Crystal Fang!
Book Review: Lair of the Crystal Fang by S.A. Sidor