An ex-convict gets caught up in a murder investigation in a town full of stories about a local, bloodthirsty witch in Horton’s (Small Towns, Country Roads, & Autumn Leaves, 2010) horror yarn.
Mike, on parole in Ohio for a drug-related charge, needs to make some money, so he opts for selling marijuana. He gets a tip to check out Crossroads Tavern in Uhrichsville, where he makes contact with Lowell, who can supply him with product. Unfortunately, the district attorney already suspects Lowell of running drugs, despite the fact that he uses isolated locations for pickups and has paid off the local deputy, Harris. Both the deputy and DA also believe that Lowell’s responsible for the disappearance of Harley Mullins, who recently braved the nearby swamp to disprove a swamp-witch legend. Townspeople have attributed a number of vanishings to said witch, and Mike appears to buy into the folklore. As he retrieves marijuana bundles at night, in cemeteries or abandoned churches, he becomes convinced that someone’s watching him. This could be chalked up to paranoia, but that doesn’t explain Mike’s sightings of a strange, hooded woman in the forest. He later dreams of her, certain that she has a secret to reveal. He searches for the truth, but he may not like the end result, which entails the death of at least one person. Horton’s novel thrives on ambience, which he establishes right away with a tavern patron’s story of the titular swamp witch. Readers never know any more than the protagonist does, so the legend’s validity (or lack thereof) isn’t clear for much of the book. Recurrent descriptions of rain and wind make for an effectively ominous environment, although sometimes Mike seems to be merely scaring himself when he hears strange noises. Horton ties in a mystery, as well, with Nicole the barmaid having “shacked up” with Harley and possibly Lowell. Meanwhile, Mike finds himself in a unique position to get evidence against his associates, leading Harris to throw a few threats in his direction. The largely resolved ending still leaves a nagging question or two.
A tale that derives its chills from a moody atmosphere and an unrelenting, unknown antagonist.