Torn between a 3 star and 4 star rating. I guess I will go with 4, as I did enjoy reading this novel and feel a 3 is unfair.
Bentley Little seems to be a master of making the mundane horrific, and sneaking up on his readers. It is out of the most benign, banal situations and circumstances he wrings true terror. He is also great at challenging expectations: his novels are fairly safe and comfortable until the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan. The Town, my second Bentley book, has these talents on front display.
This is the story of the Tomasovs. Having recently won the California lottery (though they only get one check per year, so it’s not like they’ve got tons of money to burn) and decide to move to the hometown of Gregory, the family patriarch. Said hometown is McGuane, Arizona, a backwater place with only a few stores and a dying population. Having gone from southern California to this place, they must get used to a different way of life. I really enjoyed these parts of the novel; I appreciated seeing things from the point of view of each family member. Adam, the teenage son, was my favorite, as he felt the most fleshed out.
Perhaps it’s because I just read Night Stone, a genuinely scary novel about a family moving to a new house and dealing with malevolent spirits, but this story just felt a little . . . boring, maybe? Nothing in it feels new or exciting. Family moves to small town, mysterious deaths occur, said family becomes convinced their house is haunted, family is blamed by their fellow townspeople for all things that go wrong. It just felt formulaic, that’s all. And the ending was more than a little silly and extremely convoluted — I couldn’t really follow what was happening and found myself skimming.
Still, this is Bentley Little. He has talent and I enjoy his prose. So I will give this 4 stars.
Read for ‘Terror in a Small Town’ for Halloween Bingo.