Black House is also an offshoot of King's Dark Tower series. The serial killer is also working for (and possessed by) an agent of the Crimson King. In exchange for special powers, including teleportation, the killer has agreed to turn over any special children that can be used as Breakers to weaken the Beams that keep the Dark Tower standing.
While much of Black House sounds and feels like a King novel, there are extensive literary flourishes, especially in the early chapters, that are likely more Straub's style. (Also, Straub is originally from Wisconsin.) The opening is similar to King's Needful Things, with a narrator taking us around the town, pointing out the geography and some of the residents. King later portrays the townspeople as extremely ghoulish as they arrive by the carload at an abandoned shack where the Fisherman has dumped one of his victims, hoping for a peek of something, before being turned away. "What kind of person sets off on a Saturday morning to take pictures of dead children?"
Black House started off strong enough, but the last third was a chore to get through. And since that's when the showdown with the serial killer occurs and Jack and members of the Thunder Five motorcycle gang venture into the infinite space of Black House and try to rescue a young boy from a life of slavery as a Breaker, that's a very bad sign. (Also, although the book is not a mystery, the identity of the killer - who has modeled his crimes on those of Albert Fish - is fairly easy to deduce long before it is revealed.)
King and Straub gives readers very little background information on Jack Sawyer, tossing in quick allusions to people, places, and events from The Talisman. Since settling in French Landing, Sawyer has done everything he can to forget his adventures crossing the country - and crossing over into the Territories - to find the Talisman. He will have to come to terms with his hazy memories, however, and re-visit the Territories again in order to solve this case.
The infamous and well-hidden Black House - "a place stacked with vileness and layered with secrets" - is actually portal to another world (though a different other world than the Territories):
In a very real sense, touring Black House is like touring the brain of a deranged madman, and in such a mental framework we can expect to find no plan for the future or memory of the past. In the brain of a madman only the fuming present exists, with its endless shouting urges, paranoid speculations, and grandiose assumptions.Black House recalls the Marsten House from 'Salem's Lot, and through the many threads of the Dark Tower, King links Black House to two other novels. A Mr. Brautigan (Hearts in Atlantis) is mentioned as the leader of the Breakers and the word "opopanax" is mentioned numerous times (it appears in Wolves of the Calla, the 5th Dark Tower volume).
The title recalls Charles Dickens's Bleak House, but not having read the older book, I can't say if there are direct connections, beyond the fact that Jack Sawyer is reading the Dickens novel in installments to Henry Leyden, his blind friend.
Kevin Quigley writes that the literary allusion to Dickens "is not incidental; in fact, one particularly scary section in Black House parallels the foggy opening of [Bleak House]. Also recalling Dickens are the establishing chapters, which introduce the sprawling cast of characters." Entertainment Weekly's review states that "it's no coincidence" that the title echoes Bleak House, because of the book's size and scope and its large cast of characters. (That's really not much of a connection.)
Next: Everything's Eventual.