Kirkus Reviews QR Code
KIND NEPENTHE by Matthew Brockmeyer


A Savage Tale of Terror Set in the Heart of California’s Marijuana Country

by Matthew Brockmeyer

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Marijuana harvesters at an isolated compound in California’s Emerald Triangle fall victim to violence, crazed dreams, and maybe a few ghosts in this horror debut.

Rebecca Hawthorne doesn’t like the effect Humboldt County’s having on her daughter, Megan. The 5-year-old’s obsessed with ghosts and talks to a little boy whom apparently no one else sees. But both Rebecca and her boyfriend, Calendula, who convinced her to help reap pot for Coyote so the couple can start an organic farm, are having strange dreams, laced with sex and often brutality. Coyote, meanwhile, is desperate for cash; with the legalization of marijuana in some states, his profits will be substantially reduced. He already owes his neighbor Diesel and his teen son, DJ, $50,000 for building a grow room on Coyote’s compound. Diesel’s willing to wait for the money, but DJ, whose girlfriend is pregnant, is decidedly less understanding. Back at the compound, others, including Calendula, may be seeing ghostly figures, like biker and former landowner Spider. Increasingly disturbing nightmares may carry over to consciousness, as ready access to drugs and alcohol make it harder for some to distinguish dream from reality. This ultimately elicits bouts of savage behavior that not everyone will walk away from. Brockmeyer’s unsettling tale has an effectively slow buildup to an intense boiling point. There’s a perpetual edginess despite an ambiguous supernatural element. Even if there are no ghosts, for example, characters’ fears and sometimes-vicious responses to seeing or talking to phantoms are certainly palpable. The grim, unsparing narrative is highlighted by startling scene transitions: a rattling truck moving through a “thick, wet fog that was spilling out over the road from the forest”; and a character in the process of killing someone (the victim not immediately known). Primarily loathsome characters populate the story, but Rebecca and Megan generate sympathy, best exemplified when mother and daughter pass time by watching old soaps and sitcoms that differ drastically from their dour real life.

Thoroughly suspenseful and haunting, notwithstanding evil spirits.