Marty was an interesting character. A man, just out of prison, who knows he probably still belongs in prison, and who isn't that bad of a man. He is in prison, because like a lot of people, he made a bad decision that ruined his life. He was a gambler, and he needed money, which just so happens to be the same thing that got Joseph Whitehead into trouble. There are games of chance that shouldn't be played, and there are men who shouldn't be played against. Into the picture arrives the Last European. A man full of mysteries, and a man who holds Joseph's life in his hands.
Marty finds that things are not what they seem in the Whitehead household, and he struggles to get answers. He also struggles to find out what his job is, partly because he isn't being told the truth, nor is he being given answers when he asks how he is supposed to protect a man who doesn't seem to want to be protected.
There were parts of this novel that seemed to be all over the place. There were several characters and several timelines, and they, at one point, became confusing. The main character, Marty, is a man who has scruples, and yet he doesn't seem to have a reason to continue what he is doing. While many of Barker's characters are full of different ideas and ideologies, the characters in this novel weren't as well-developed as they could have been. Marty was a little flat, and throughout he questioned things over and over, often asking the same questions. Whitehead was a man looking for life, but no one really knows why. Is he afraid of the afterlife, or is he afraid of what his corpse might be used to do? The Last European is almost immortal, and yet he wants to both live and die because everything around him has died. The reader never really finds out what his goal is. Whitehead's daughter, Carys, is a heroin addict, and she is only addicted because her father wanted a way to control her. Yet, now she finds heroin to be a crutch she can't live without. Then there is Breer, a dead man who has disturbing conquests and goals that he can't seem to reach.
While not the best book I've read by Barker, I did enjoy it. I will forever be in love with the Cenobites and Books of Blood, but I wanted to branch out and read more by Barker. I can't wait to read more by him, in fact I have two more of his books on my to be read bookshelves. I was reminded a little of author Edward Lee while reading The Damnation Game, and wonder if Lee took some ideas from Barker, as they both involve characters with issue revolving around sex (disgust by, or addictive need).
I could go either way recommending this. Read it because Clive Barker is pretty awesome, or don't because it is not his best work.