First blog post of the new year! Woot! Let’s hope 2017 sucks less than it’s predecessor.
I think think I’ve talked about my particular fussiness with horror before. Needs to be well written, supernatural, and I need to not have it all figured out by chapter 2. I’m not saying you can’t use established horror tropes or myths, but please try to be at least a little innovative.
I discovered James A. Moore a few years ago when I found his Serenity Falls series, and loved it. I believe I got the first book, not paying attention, then realized it was a series, and said, “Well, fuck,” and went back for the other two the next day. I find him inventive, with excellent word choice, and great plotting.
Anyway, on to Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill starts out with an amnesiac old man kicking the shit out of a couple of cops, getting arrested and sent to Cherry Hill, the local, exceptionally haunted, asylum. In due time you find out that the old man is John Crowley, suspected in the disappearance of his family five years ago, who has also been missing for five years. While doctors are trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of Crowley, weird things are happening at the asylum. A body is found after it falls through the ceiling tiles, wearing clothing several decades out of date, who doesn’t match record of anyone currently at the asylum.
At the same time you start getting the point of view of something alien at the asylum, that originated in the mind of a young man lobotomized after being arrested as a serial killer.
Now, Moore never fully explains why or how this happened. Nor does he explain who or what John Crowley really is. You know that he knows magic and is functionally immortal. You know that he is bound to help if someone asks him. You know he is very, very powerful. Outside of that, you could probably make a very good case for him being an angel, a demon, or a powerful human sorceror under some sort of geas. And that’s ok, you don’t need to know that for the story to work.
You also find out that whatever killed his family in front of him, he gets that memory back first, is supernatural in nature and it has to do with what he really is. As Crowley features in many of Moore’s novels, he does good set up for his continuing arc.
I found the characterizations to be largely good. As with the Serenity Falls books there always seems to be one authority figure that doesn’t quite ring true. In this case I’m not sure if it’s because you’re supposed to get that he is more than a little unbalanced himself far earlier in the book than I caught on. But aside from that one character, I thought everyone else was beautifully written. I enjoy Crowley as a character and quite liked him, even if he is a gruff old bastard.
The book does have some really graphic depictions of violence. There is one rape scene that is largely fade to black, with others implied. The sexual violence is the only violence not lovingly rendered in great detail and for that I am grateful. The rest of the violence is very detailed, and gorgeously so.
I went into this expecting your run of the mill haunted asylum story. I was gratified to find a startlingly new twist on a common genre trope. I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it to other fans of horror literature.
Now I want to re-read the Serenity Falls books, which is not going to happen any time soon because they, like the rest of my library, are in a box among many boxes. We haven’t set up the library yet.
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