A vengeful spirit, an urban legend that goes back to the 1800’s and a group of friends that are ghost hunters – well ghost thrill seekers would be a better description… if that sounds something you’re interested in then read on my friends, read on!
I was very excited to read this book when I heard that Silver Shamrock were releasing Brennan LaFaro’s debut – Brennan is a huge supporter of the horror community and I was thrilled to get a copy to review and in turn support him.
If you didn’t know, ghost or the paranormal has become a favourite sub genre of horror for me in recent years with Sarah Perry’s ‘Melmoth’, Beverley Lee’s ‘The Ruin of Delicate Things’ and Michael Clark’s ‘The Patience of a Dead Man’ series. So once I read the premise of this book I couldn’t wait to get to it.
There is something I need to mention here, and it’s something that I need to say because I’m all about honest reviews – these are my opinions, but I need to just mention a few of my hookups on this book first – so we can get to what I loved in a bit.
I found the first 11 chapters a bit of a slog, I didn’t really gel with the narrator of our piece (Travis) it’s not that the opening chapters are bad, but with the wisecracking between Travis and Josh it seemed to just pull me out of the story and the chilling elements that LaFaro was spinning, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. As I said this is my opinion, some will most probably love this, some might not be a fan – unfortunately I ended up in the latter category.
This wisecracking nature of the first few chapters, and the way the narrator seemed to be talking directly to me sucked the tension and dread out of the opening. I felt it read in tone more YA than horror – it felt like it was missing something, but what I didn’t realise was that element was waiting just around the corner, and the introduction of Elsie.
One final thing, I did find the ending a little rushed, not the impending doom and the fleeing but rather how they manage to find a way out of their predicament (I can’t say much here about this as it would contain spoilers) it just seemed they went through a hell of a lot and the conclusion was over in about three pages. But don’t get this twisted, this whole section is written brilliantly with regards to the tension and dread and completion of the story.
So the great bits…
Chapter 11 is where the book kicks on a gear and I soon fell under LaFaro’s spell and story telling brilliance (the man has some serious chops people, sit up and take notice). I found with the introduction of Elsie it just seemed to automatically elevate the story, it began to sink its teeth into me and the pace just picked up and whisked me away.
LaFaro soon has Travis detailing to us the story of this vengeful spirit (Weeks), and origin story of some sorts that leads us to Slattery Falls and a case of missing children, a mob and the hanging of the man the town held responsible. This chapter and the following few give the reader an adrenaline rush and I couldn’t read the pages quick enough, when LaFaro is writing this way it shows the true brilliance of the man – there is no wisecracking, no talking to the reader it is straight forward storytelling and I bloody loved it.
I found the Benson House (I think that’s what it was called) fabulously detailed, it’s for me where the story really made itself known, the fear and dread are on point and the character work is well executed – although I had hang ups in the beginning, the characters did grow on me and I was invested in their plight, and that is the mark of a great storyteller.
The haunting aspects of this book are brilliant – there are moments of creepiness, there are moments of horror and the macabre, there are moments I shouted ‘don’t do that’ and ‘run’ – there is one scene in particular when our gaggle of friends find themselves in the basement that chilled the marrow in my bones ‘these were children’ – which LaFaro nailed!
Would I recommend Slattery Falls? You bet your bloody life I would. It’s a fabulous debut from an author who I can see great things coming from in the future, this read like a twisted version of the BBC’s infamous ‘Ghostwatch’ – a slow burn horror that keeps you turning the pages!
Available from Silver Shamrock Publishing
Brennan LaFaro is a horror writer/reader living in south eastern Massachusetts with his wife, two sons, and his hounds. An avid lifelong reader, Brennan also co-hosts the Dead Headspace podcast. His debut novella, Slattery Falls will release in July 2021 through Silver Shamrock Publishing. You can find his short fiction in anthologies such as Shiver, edited by Nico Bell, and ProleSCARYet, edited by Ian A Bain, Eric Raglin, et al. He is most active on twitter at @brennanlafaro.
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