i don’t usually dig folk horror—i find it too understated; too quaint and stylized to be entertaining, let alone scary, but this book is refreshingly modern and legit creepy. i wasn’t scared-scared, since whatever part of a person that regulates the ability to be scared by books/movies seems to be broken in me, but i can wholly appreciate effective horror atmosphere, and this is FULL of skin-crawlingly memorable images and phrases, and some wonderful surprises.
i’ve read several short stories online by t. kingfisher/ursula vernon, but this is my first foray into her full-length work. (‘course, from right here where i sit writing this, i can see no fewer than THREE full-length books of hers i bought ages ago with every intention of reading immediately, and yet have not gotten around to reading, because whatever part of a person regulates the ability to read every book they buy is also broken in me)
BUT ANYWAY, i had very high expectations for this based on her short stories, so i was distraught when i missed grabbing an ARC at BEA, arriving mere moments after the copies had been distributed. i’m forever grateful to saga press for alleviating my whimpering grief by sending one my way. ♥
it’s every bit as good as what i’ve already read of hers, showcasing her strong overall sense of storytelling; everything from character, voice, atmosphere, and the frequently-overlooked element of pacing. in horror, pacing is key.
oh, and that doggie.
having just read a fantastic GOOD BOY dog in The Ten Thousand Doors of January, i was delighted to come upon another one so soon, and i’m not sure if i am more in puppy-love with Bad or Bongo. i do know that 3/4 of the folded-over pages in this book, which indicate my appreciation for a phrase or scene, are bongo-related, so i think he’s pulling ahead, but shhhh, don’t tell bad!
Bongo sat up and came over to the window. He licked the screen and seemed puzzled that it tasted like wire.
“You’re not smart,” I told him. He wagged his tail and licked the screen again, on the off chance that it had become tasty.
i love the narrator’s voice, i love her indulgent/protective relationship with bongo, her deep understanding of his individual character and his breed’s (a redbone coonhound)…idiosyncrasies, and she’s a perfect horror-heroine; neither too open- nor too close-minded, neither too fearless nor too helpless; she’s authentically capable in the face of an unfathomable situation.
this also has a hoarding component to it, and is the second horror novel i have read on that theme (after alan ryker’s The Hoard) and MAN, is hoarding a situation with unlimited horrific potential. three words: creepy doll room. (shudder)
hoarding is an “ordinary horror,” and she’s very good at making the mundane seem ominous:
In the morning sunlight, it was pretty obvious that the porch had been a dumping ground for old furniture, gardening equipment, and what looked like an ancient grill. All the corners had been filled in with more junk. It was really kind of impressive. She hadn’t just hoarded; she’d made walls and ramparts out of her possessions, like she was expecting a siege.
the only complaint i have is that there is an overlong chunk devoted to a found journal that was written very much in the folk horror tradition, which dragged for me because i wanted to get back to the action and the more compelling narratorial voice. exposition-wise, the journal is necessary, but it went on and on and i was not loving it. however, there’s an author’s note at the end that explains what that journal was referencing (and, not being a folk-horror fan, it was something i’d never read, although it is likely a piece collected in ANOTHER unread book i have languishing over here), and she even addresses the specific way she approached the construction of that part, which, even though i was kind of zzz during my reading of the actual part, i found her explanation/inspiration very interesting, indeed. do not skip the author’s note—she is a hoot and a treasure.
oh, and the cover does that thing i love, like Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone (which is kind of ALSO folk horror, but i loved it), where there are seeeecret words glossily superimposed on the cover (which you can see in my review here), and i appreciated very much that they bothered to replicate that feature on an ARC.
so many reasons not to miss out on this book!
despite meticulous planning, i somehow missed out on this at BEA, but i’m so glad i swallowed my pride, ignored my already-teetering to-read list and straight-up begged the publisher for it, because it was everything i dreamed it would be.
gratitude for now.
review to come.