Offstage Offerings

Offstage Offerings (Rewind or Die Book 17) by Priya Sridhar

Vivian starts her summer counseling gig at the Haunted Basilio Theater, hoping all the ghosts are harmless. At first, the kids under her wing are more trouble than any random winds rustling the costumes or funny noises from rats. Then her mentor gets the boot, and the kids vanish into the dark recesses. The pigeons on the roof are hostile.

The boss says ‘don’t ask questions,’ but Vivian wants answers. She just needs the courage to enter locked doors with the right keys.

The IndieMuse Review

The Phantom of the Opera meets Gargoyles

Vivian is a college student with aspirations of being an actor. She has stayed behind for the summer break so she can take a job working as a counsellor for a theater camp at the notorious Haunted Basilio Theater. She is excited to share her knowledge and earn a little money and doesn’t take the rumours of the hauntings too seriously.

It’s not long until strange things begin to happen. Other counsellors disappear overnight, some of the children suddenly stop attending without explanation, and just what are those strange sounds and terrible smells emanating from the off-limits sections of the building?

Vivian’s summer job soon becomes a fight for survival as infernal bargains to restore the theatre to its former glory have come due, and the price is high.

I loved the setting of this book. A creepy old abandoned theater which is infamous for several urban legends and ghost stories regarding dead actors and cursed plays. It’s an effectively creepy and unique place for a horror book and an early scene in which an illegal tour group guides a handful of drunken thrill-seekers through the theater in the dead of night does a great job of getting the story going. The book also utilizes a woefully underused horror creature as the main antagonists. I can’t say I have read a great many horror books featuring gargoyles and it is a shame because it feels like there is a lot of potential.

The overall premise is so strong, in fact, that I was a little disappointed when the prologue showed a little too much. It is a big, bold opening statement with lots of action and bloodshed, but I couldn’t help feel it may have been more fun to keep some stuff back as a surprise, rather than showing its hand too early in the proceedings. Having said that, the pacing of the book does slow and begin to build the tension a little more effectively from that point, and there are details regarding the creatures’ motivations that are kept back for the finale.

I enjoyed Vivian as the main character. She felt very relatable and her interactions with her friends and the children attending the theater camp endeared me to her early on. The writing is strong, but there are a number of odd or jarring turns of phrase which made me double-take and reread certain lines to ensure I followed their meaning.

I have read a few of the Rewind or Die series now, books that are designed to invoke the feeling of the VHS covers of the 1980s. Of all the ones I have read at this point, Offstage Offerings is, by a wide margin, the one I would have loved to see as a low budget ’80s horror movie. It has everything a good, cheap and cheesy horror movie should while also having a unique selling point to separate it from the crowd.

A fantastic premise and a cinematic feel, the book’s flaws never tarnish the fun factor. Another fun entry in the enjoyable Rewind or Die series.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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