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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Chill by Scott Carson

This was a random pickup for me. I’ve never heard of Carson before but there were a couple of quotes on the cover of the paperback that caught my attention, so I figured why not. I’m glad that I picked the book up. More on that later. This is also going to be a difficult plot synopsis as I walk the line of talking about the book without spoiling anything.

The story follows the inhabitants of a small town named Torrance. The town located north of New York City is the location of an old damn which was built to create a reservoir that was designed to provide water for the growing city decades earlier. When they built the damn a nearby community named Galesburg was swamped and now lies on the bottom of the manmade lake. As the story progresses, we find out that a few of the families refused to sell and when it seemed that they were going to lose the battle with eminent domain protested with one final fiery protest. In a strange twist after the damn was built and the town destroyed the city ended up not using it meaning the whole thing was a tragic waste.

Our main characters, Aaron the disgraced son of the local sheriff and Gillian who has a mysterious familial connection to the town of Galesburg are drawn into the supernatural goings on. Decades earlier the families that refused to leave were influenced by a mysterious photographer who claimed to be there to document what was happening. But somehow he keeps showing up years later again taking pictures but never aging. It is hinted that he is some supernatural force of nature. This combined with the ghosts of those who feel wronged aid in the failure of the damn and the plans to destroy the real reason that the town was flooded, and the people displaced. That target is New York City!

I really enjoyed the book. The story is an interesting twist that kept me guessing until the end. In addition to the photographer we also get some ghosts, as well as what I think may be a reanimated corpse that doesn’t know he is dead but does talk to the ghosts and helps to move their plot along. As the story progresses characters die unexpectedly and others that I was sure weren’t going to make it to the end turn out okay. I’ve read a lot of books in the horror genre and normally can figure out who is toast, but Carson does a wonderful job playing with my expectations. That made The Chill an interesting read.

Using the disaster along with the ghosts and especially the supernatural photographer the story delves into the folly of human beings thinking that they can tame nature. It seems like when that happens the Earth or perhaps some nature spirits push back at our arrogance. The fact that Carson never defines it leaving much of it as a mystery was a nice touch. The reader only needs to know enough for this particular story and keeping some of it unsaid makes the whole thing that much spookier and fun.

Another thing that I enjoyed about the book was how it ended. Not going into specifics here but the story does leave it open to a continuation of sorts. I feel like these characters are likely done, but there is a hint that much like nature itself, the consequences of flooding the town out, or more accurately the valley in which it was located, are inevitable. While they stopped this particular attempt the spirits have moved on and will try again further downstream.

I could keep going on, but it should be obvious that I dug The Chill and am going to recommend it. It appears that Carson has only done one other novel in the horror genre (this is a pen named and he has written in other genres under his actual name) and I will be on the lookout for that book, Where it Waits.


Ó Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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