When you read as many books as I do, you begin to see the same stories again and again. A couple of years ago, I figured out this was a function of the limited number of authors I was exposing myself – when it comes to science fiction/fantasy, I was reading the works of the same dozen authors. I resolved to branch out and Amazon obliged with the self-published works of dozens of folks not picked up by the cutthroat business of print publishing. The quality may vary but dig and you can find gems which rival the best of the more traditionally published work.
That is how I wound up reading horror novel, Briar Lake.
Briar Lake is a conventional tale of ghostly revenge visited upon an unfortunate descendant for the sins of the past, something which I have seen in print and on the screen before. What was interesting about this novel – unique in my experience of reading – was the choice to make the cast of characters working class. Instead of a plucky but adventurist college co-ed, a harried suburban housewife, or a crowd of dense but lovable tourists or campers, the author Cora Kane chose a group of people who you could have found working at a local factory, eating a meal at the local Waffle House, or tossing back some beers at the local bar. It seems like a small thing but when combined with the setting of rural Virginia it adds a sense of verisimilitude to these characters and their dialogue which I often find lacking in these sorts of novels.
If I were to categorize my feelings about the book having finished it this weekend, I would call it a good campfire tale – the sort which is more unsettling because instead of a bunch of faceless pop-up targets ready for the slaughter, the people at risk here are people which I have known and shared time. It personalizes the tragedy in a way most horror movies couldn’t. There are things about this book which I’m critical – the ratio between horror and character building dialogue was unbalanced in the middle sections – but I read this book on a stormy night in Kentucky and I’m now unsettled by small rural lakes.
I would call it mission accomplished on the horror front.