A small town with a gothic history falls prey to evil forces in former TV cooking-show host and restaurateur Ruggerio’s (Ruggerio’s Italian Kitchen, 2000, etc.) debut novel.
Children have been disappearing in the tiny, rustic hamlet of Brunswick, New York, for centuries. As Halloween draws near, young, stuttering, motherless William Willowsby witnesses frightening apparitions while playing with his friend Lilly Mueller in the reportedly haunted Forest Park cemetery. Even though he’s fascinated by the idea of monsters, he encounters creeping fog and the sound of a guttural moan that forces William to flee. But he soon becomes obsessed with investigating the mysteries surrounding the graveyard. Meanwhile, brothers Joey and Bobby Martorano visit Brunswick to debunk supernatural rumors. But horrific events befall the siblings as they explore the deep corners of a morgue, just as local longtime bookshop owner Jessup Homel feared would happen. Soon, local law enforcement becomes inspired to reopen a cold case and solves a mystery in the process. Throughout the novel, the author builds out Brunswick’s origins and legacy with ominous historical anecdotes. Ancient lore meets contemporary horror as monsters materialize in the present day, and William, Tom, and Bobby, cry werewolf—to the townspeople’s collective dismay. Bloodshed ensues before the serpentine nightmare comes to a close, leaving room for a potential sequel. In a succession of crisp, clipped chapters, Ruggerio moves his story along using classic horror and suspense tropes, blended with a unique descriptive flair, particularly when setting scenes or detailing the grim particulars of a monster. The author also conjures a fantastically eerie sense of place, showing Brunswick to be a close-knit, Halloween-loving, evil-fearing township, complete with a haunted mansion and schoolhouse, and a creepy mortuary with a grim past. The author brings in numerous characters along the way, although some wander in and out a bit too hastily. Overall, though, the story is alluring and devilishly entertaining, with a tone and subject matter reminiscent of spooky (but PG-rated) horror movies.
A sinister but not-too-scary slice of Halloween horror fiction featuring a hearty bunch of heroes.