Cavignano’s second novel (The Righteous and the Wicked, 2014) is a solid horror story with appetizing characters.
Something ancient and evil is feeding on the residents of Glenwood, Massachusetts. Children go missing and then adults. The spirit of Samuel, a young boy from the 1600s, appears to three residents—teacher Jay, 9-year-old Sarah and high school freshman Tim—with a warning and the news that only they can stop the predator. All are outcasts. Jay’s fiancee has just left him, and he’s on the verge of letting alcohol destroy his life. Sarah has an overactive imagination and gets mocked for a lisp she fought hard to lose. Tim, new in town, is harassed by Randy, a high school thug. They all face a demonlike creature called Trell who was responsible for killing the residents of a colony in the area in the 1640s. Trell has the ability to make others do his bidding, and as he lures more people into his cave, he gets stronger and more aggressive in his murderous impulses. Meanwhile, the trio must track down Trell’s secrets and the lost colony’s history to stop him. The story works best when it sticks to the basic frame of the three misfits versus the demon, but the plot often meanders. A subplot about how Trell can be defeated is murky, especially concerning his amulet. The idea of the amulet is introduced very late in the story, and when its power is revealed in the end, it feels too convenient. Samuel has secrets that could help defeat Trell, but he doesn’t reveal much until the end. This is partly because he can’t stay in the earthly realm for long, but the reasons for that are never adequately explained. Jay’s alcoholism figures heavily into the plot, but other characters typically respond to that in thought rather than deed. The primarily clear prose bears a few confusing and labored descriptions—“Sweat beaded across his pale forehead, glistening under his blood-smeared lower lip”; “A strong wind gusted at their backs as the frenzied music of his neighbor’s wind chime carried through the night like Beethoven gone insane.” Cavignano is good at creating characters, and he’s set up a good story, but he doesn’t always color in the details in a way that allows the book to fulfill its potential.
Well-developed characters and premise but too few animating specifics.