- Genre: Horror
- Length: 408 pages
- Publication Date: April 7, 2020
- Buy: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.
One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.
This is the scariest, most disturbing novel I’ve ever read. That said, I’m not sure whether it was the gruesome, bloody scenes that took place among the quiet suburban life, or the fact that the protagonist was trapped in a world where the people she cared about most would rather call her crazy than come her her aide.
James Harris is one bad dude, and he makes a formidable antagonist. However, the character I actually found myself loathing even more than James the child murderer was Carter, Patricia’s gaslighting husband. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character to be killed off as much as I did Carter, and my only issue with this novel is that he did not suffer a worse fate. Carter is responsible for every bad thing that happens to his family because when his wife admits to having seen James Harris doing something terrible, Carter literally tries to medicate his wife because James is his friend’s business partner.
The true genius here is that as frustrated as I became with these characters, I greatly enjoyed seeing them grow over the course of the novel. This is my favorite scary season novel so far, and I can’t recommend it more. I finished it and immediately handed it off to a friend from work, and I have no regrets.