Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Southern New England Horror

From the Southern New England Horror series, volume 1

by J.J. Alo

Pub Date: March 24th, 2023
ISBN: 9781088097984
Publisher: Self

A Gulf War veteran struggles to keep his family together—and his sanity intact—when faced with multiple crises in Alo’s horror novel.

Curtis Reynolds is not a happy man. An overworked third-shift laborer who spends weeks, sometimes months, away from his wife and child, Reynolds is summoned home when a hurricane traveling up the East Coast is predicted to travel dangerously near his family’s Connecticut house, which is located on a river. He dreads returning to an estranged wife and a crumbling marriage, a child with special needs, a pile of bills, a flooded basement, and a house that’s in the process of being lost to eminent domain due to a mysterious project funded by the government. Suffering from past war trauma (“The surrounding men, including himself, lay speckled in shrapnel, surrounded by a smoldering blur of twisted metal”) as well as nightmares associated with a woman he killed while driving drunk years earlier, Reynolds is not prepared for what he discovers on his street, already being battered by the storm: brutally murdered neighbors, destroyed houses, roaming colonies of feral cats, and a nightmarish beast stuck in his basement that simply can’t be real. With his sanity possibly slipping, Reynolds investigates and finds revelations in an abandoned neighborhood across the river. There’s a lot to like here: Alo’s writing is focused and fluid, creating a fast-paced and action-packed narrative that never flags. His adept ability to intertwine multiple threads of tension—the raging storm, PTSD-induced hallucinations, nightmarish creatures, marital conflict, and secret government installations—keeps the intensity impressively high throughout, weaving a thick tapestry of terror. One quibble: The overuse of description in places sometimes slows the narrative momentum. Still, the jaw-dropping plot twists will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

A page-turning horror exploring (and adding to) New England folklore and myth.