Monday, June 12, 2017

Trick and treat

The Halloween Children

Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

Publisher: Hydra

Pub. Date: June 13, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Halloween in June? I guess so. This eerie Halloween tale which is a bit on the nasty side is being published in its first trade appearance this summer. It seems a little early but since Christmas is now getting celebrated beginning in October, I guess we can start Halloween a little early. In fact after reading this, it may be a wise idea.

Not that the timing matters. A good horror story is welcomed any time of year. Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss has written a neat little horror novel in The Halloween Children and any time is a good time to celebrate. The plot centers around the Naylor family and set just before Halloween. Harris is the maintenance man for the Stillbrook apartment complex where he and his family lives. His wife Lynn works at home while their two children, Matt and Amber are basically just typical children. Yet there is a dark side developing around the complex and the Naylor family has edges around them are just do not add up and may feed into that darkness. Matt and Lynn bicker about how to discipline the children and it is clear that mom and dad has favorites. Amber is telling weird stories that Lynn cannot believe are coming from her daughter and Harris has a disturbing way of teaching Matt how to take care of Amber's habit of putting her toys on his side of the room. On top of this there are odd and spooky things going on throughout the apartments: loud noises above their apartment from someone the children name Mr. Stompy, strange smells, and to add to the problem, the manager has cancelled the Halloween party. Let's just say this will not end well.

There are all the bells and whistles that make for a good and creepy Halloween tale but what makes this above average is the characterizations of the Naylor family. They seem average yet not quite together. The alternating chapters give first person narrations for both Harris and Lynn. We get a ongoing narrative with the advantage of seeing both persons' perception of what is going on and that gives us the tension. Which side is correct? Are either side giving us anything close to the truth? When odd and scary things happen, we wonder the same thing Harris is wondering, is he crazy or are people, or things, really out to get him? We do not get an answer until the end and that answer may not answer all our questions. But at the same time, it sets up a nice Halloween legend that fits into the story and the holiday.

So if you want to start Halloween a little early this is a good place to start. There is all the creepiness and haunting phenomena you can hope for. But whatever you do, don't cancel Halloween!

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