I reviewed’Flesh’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
It feeds. It grows.
The small town of Vacant harbors a secret so terrifying that the local lawmen will do anything to keep it hidden—including murder. Something sinister stalks the surrounding woods, a horrifying creature thought to be only a mystical legend. It hunts at night, killing with ravenous voracity. Deputies Carson Manning and Kyle Brady are the harvesters: they find the victims, tie them to the baiting post. Sheriff Andrew Keller and Deputy Matthew Nielsen are the cleaners: they dispose of the corpses. But when Vacant’s townsfolk take matters into their own hands, nothing can contain the slaughter.
The deadly entity isn’t the only menace Sheriff Keller has to face. He has his own dark secret, a past he tries to hide behind frequent alcohol binges. Now that past has come back to haunt him and will throw him headlong into a traumatic situation that could mean life or death for him and those he holds dear.
I love a good horror story. I grew up devouring Stephen King books and I’ve never found another author that does small town spooky oppressive atmosphere, flawed but sympathetic characters and downright ‘bump in the night’ scares so well. So Dylan J. Morgan had a lot to live up to.
He has the small town atmosphere down perfectly. Vacant and its flawed inhabitants are compellingly drawn and easy to picture. I was torn between sympathy and frustration at Sheriff Keller and despised the deputies and the town mayor. Keller in particular was a complex character – beautifully done, he is the epitome of a man struggling to come to terms with his past, a man who knows his life has been a waste, who knows that he is weak, and yet still has that shred of humanity that has you rooting for him and wanting things to be alright.
The threat that the town faces is well -portrayed and satisfyingly scary, and the opening of the book is a real hook, paving the way for the gruesome secret at the heart of Vacant. The writing itself is technically flawless. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue authentic and the amount of gore pitched perfectly.
The only sticking point for me is the motivation of the ordinary townspeople. I didn’t quite buy that they would agree so whole-heartedly with how the police, preacher and major choose to deal with the threat to their town. These are nice, normal people. I’m not saying they can’t agree to it, only that I wanted to know more clearly why they had – why they were so convinced that this was the only option. There is scope perhaps for the religious element to be played up a bit more here. What Stephen King always does so well is make you believe that ordinary people can do dreadful things. And while this book was a compelling, competent and really enjoyable read, I didn’t completely believe it.