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March 14, 2020

2 Creepy Novels for Horror Fans

by MK French


Looking for something creepy to read now that the sun is shining brightly?

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Periphery by Michael Winter

August 2019; Sandhill Publishing; 978-1733366403
ebook, print (381); horror
Twenty years ago, respected college professor John Tate suddenly started ranting about creatures in the darkness hiding in plain sight. He left his wife and son Andrew to keep them safe from those horrors, and he continued to do research into the discovery. There were only rare contacts with Andrew until he was called to help in a hostage situation. At that point, he saw something that was there and not-there at the same time, exactly as his father used to talk about. Apparently, his father's stories are very real, and there is something deep and dangerous lurking, waiting for more evils to arrive.

This novel is heavily inspired by the Chthulu mythos. There are geometric and angular things in the shadows that can appear like everyday items, only they have eyes and teeth. The vetro offalante had been on earth before the extinction-level meteor had destroyed the dinosaurs, and escaped the devastation. In doing so, they left their minions the bilantu offalante behind. These are the creatures whispering to mortals, driving them crazy, or twisting what they see. Once humans see them, there is no longer any unseeing them or ignoring their existence. Andrew describes it like the magic eye pictures, where staring at things for a long time and altering perceptions allow you to see a hidden image buried within the swirls of colors. These creatures are the same way and want to bring their masters back to rule the earth again.

The horror creeps in slowly so that we get to know Andrew and then John, both haunted by shadows of the past, before we dive into the rest of the cast. As Andrew gets a crash course in the monsters of his father's tales, so do we. We also learn that there's a timetable, and the vetro offalante are close to returning to earth through a gateway that is slowly becoming active. As the countdown of sorts continues, there are more and more strange things happening in Tampa that people can't readily ignore.

The creepiness begins in the more ordinary forms, as in the homeless man taking a hostage, marital discord due to Andrew's past drinking, coworkers having it in for him. Gradually there are voices, his father's odd requests, and then his father's acquaintances coming to him with more information about the strange things tying the world to the creatures people can't quite see. It takes on a more sinister role with time, whispering voices in languages no one could speak, coincidences happening with increasing frequency.  As the story progresses, nightmares, visions, and premonitions begin, along with better looks at these creatures from the other dimension and body horror as human bodies are hijacked by them or a serial killer describes what he wants to do. That aspect was described with a horrific zeal, and the encroaching monsters had no other goal than to invade, corrupt and consume.

This isn't necessarily a fresh take on Lovecraftian horrors but is one that doesn't focus on a cult torturing victims to reach their aim. The ending fits, but I wasn't as happy with it as I expected to be. The romantic thread didn't ring true, and I expected a full reunion. Maybe I missed something along the way as I raced to the ending, but I had hoped for a happier ending than the one we got.

Buy Periphery at Amazon

The Darkest Veil by Catherine Cavendish

October 2019; Macabre Ink; 978-1950565108
ebook, print (104 pages); horror
Five women live together in a 19th-century townhouse in 1972, and not everything there is what it seems to be one. One woman flees in the night. One disappears. There are strange sounds in the house and the spirit of a long-dead man who had founded a coven in the house years ago. The house itself feels evil, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s released…

We begin with Alice moving in and getting friendly with her housemates. Her introduction is very straightforward, and like most eighteen-year-olds moving out for the first time, she is confident in her ability to take care of herself, navigate a new city and new job, and make new friends. They all think a séance to look into the creepy noises occurring in the house is a great idea, even after getting warnings from a girl with some psychic ability. In a horror novel, we know exactly what’s going to happen next. The creepiness is in fits and starts in the first half of the novel, building the tension very slowly. We’re given a twist halfway through, and I absolutely got thrown for a loop. The novel progresses very quickly at that point, looping back and forth in time until the ending.

I can see this as a horror movie, much like Catherine’s other novels. The descriptions carry a cinematic quality, with the chapters serving as different cut scenes. This is definitely a novel where good doesn’t triumph over evil, so keep that in mind. That isn’t always a fact that turns me off horror novels if it’s done right, and this one definitely carries the creepy factor all the way to the last page.

Buy The Darkest Veil at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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