Enjoy what should have been a Monday with Mildred!*
There’s an old, dead witch living in the bucolic town of Black Springs in the picturesque Hudson Valley. At first Katherine seems harmless, though her sewn up eyes and mouth and chained up body are disturbing to look at. The solution is to plunk a fake Dutch barrel organ over her and pretend she’s not standing on a downtown street. Hardy har. We’re next introduced to goofy members of H.E.X., the quasi-Military organization tasked with keeping Katherine secret from the rest of the world, and with enforcing the strict rules of engagement with the ghost. Because she’s not as harmless as you might think.
Events ramp up, getting uglier and leaving the townspeople in an increasingly hazardous, and practically inescapable position. There is much evil afoot and some truly creepy and scary events, though the middle stutters a few times and nearly begins to drag. By the end of the book you will feel like you’ve been through a ringer but I felt almost disappointed by the denouement, mostly because the author skips past it so quickly after a book’s worth of buildup. There are a lot of very strongly drawn characters in the story that the author is good at making you feel exactly what he wants you to feel about each one.
The novel was written by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, a Dutch writer who translated his original story into English. Apparently he changed the ending of the book while tweaking its Dutchness into Americanisms, but I have yet to find a website that explains what the differences are. The book’s European origin gives it a subtle flavor that enhances the feeling of oddness about Black Springs. Heuvelt begins with a humorous take on the ghost which fades with every revelation of Katherine’s personal history, the town’s history with her, and the truth about its precarious situation, finally devolving into horror, sadness and the inevitability of evil.
I thought it was well written and for the most part well-paced with surprisingly affecting characters. The end was the weakest part of the book, as it dragged on and on. There’s simply too much of everything at that point, making the book feel bottom heavy. HEX is a harsh, cruel, scary ghost story, meatier than the average spook book. I felt a little duped by the message at the very end, but Heuvelt did it so smoothly that I bear no ill will. Try this out if you’re in the mood for a rough ride.
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt UK book trailer – Hodder & Stoughton
*Once again, I suck and missed a Monday with Mildred. I hang my head in shame. – CFR