“Shadows In The Asylum: The Case Files Of Dr. Charles Marsh” (Book Review)


Author D.A. Stern has a history of pushing some envelopes with his writing. Perhaps his best-known book, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: A DOSSIER, took an unusual approach to presenting the background of the witch, accounts of the filmmakers’ disappearance, and almost 40 pages of journal. Along the way, the reader absorbs a deeper understanding of all of the disparate elements that made up the movie. Stern employs many of the same ideas to create SHADOWS IN THE ASYLUM: THE CASE FILES OF DR. CHARLES MARSH, and the result is one of the creepiest reads around.

Dr. Charles Marsh has recently arrived at the Kriegmoor Psychiatric Institute escaping the public scrutiny that surrounded his participation in a famous murder trial. He quickly throws himself into his work, and begins to investigate a series of nightmares that seem to affect his patients.

The nightmares progress and Marsh finds himself being pulled into the experience. He is very thorough with his scientific approach, and when he finally comes to the conclusion that there is no logical explanation for the horrific activities, his world is shattered.

The reader is left with a novel that walks the rapidly disappearing line between reality and altered states. Tension quickly escalates as Marsh tries to maintain a scientific distance while he teeters on the brink of madness.

Instead of using a straight forward narrative, or even an epistolary approach, Stern presents a large file of notes, transcripts, historical documents, e-mails, and a few other odds and ends that drive the story forward, and sometimes circles back to pick up a little piece here or there that the good doctor missed earlier.

It is a fun method and once the reader gets used to the style, the book moves quickly. Employing the techniques of found footage movies, Stern has expanded the way good stories are told. On a personal note, this reviewer was impressed by the multitude of writing styles Stern used to create the many different voices in the book.

Pick yourself up a copy and get ready for a few creepy nights.


By D.A. Stern
Emmis Books

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About the author
John Porter
John Porter is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on National Public Radio and in a variety of magazines. When he’s not staying up late watching horror movies, he’s usually reviewing theatre, working on Time For The Blues for WCVE public radio or performing stand-up comedy. You can follow his inane ramblings at http://mondojohnny.blogspot.com/.
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