In this debut horror novel, several generations of women try to prevent a demon from opening a permanent rift between universes.
In vignettes that skip ahead and backward in time, this tale follows the efforts of women in a family to sabotage a demon. Bernie Baker, as he’s usually referred to, takes several identities as he steals bodies to reincarnate. He commits cruel acts wherever he goes, at one point becoming known as the “Cleveland Crusher,” a serial killer who murders with a vise. He’s sometimes helped by the “Others,” supernatural creatures that take the guise of ordinary people. In 2004, Bernie is now retired U.S. senator and multimillionaire John Arnold, who has used his wealth and position to push forward a big shopping mall in Redhill, Ohio. The mall stands on the site where the barrier between worlds is thin, a location that previously housed a cabin, then an orphanage, and eventually a correctional facility, where Bernie had lived and later been incarcerated. These structures were destroyed, and now Bernie plans a deadly conflagration in the service of a Great Offering: opening a rift for demons and richly rewarding himself. To do so, he needs the psychic abilities of Madonna Bedonne, the latest in a line of women since 1898 who have fought but failed to stop the demon. But if Madonna can harness her powers, she can close the rift forever and save Redhill’s Christmas shoppers. Readers with a taste for gory horror are the best audience for Noble’s novel. Many scenes detail Bernie’s atrocities at length, the more shocking when committed in the body of a child. But with frequent and wrenching jumps backward and forward in time, for example from 1895 to 2004 to 1885 to 1900 to 1894 in the first 19 pages, it’s difficult to keep a handle on the characters or their roles in the plot. (A chart of relationships provides some help.) Things improve late in the book, when the story settles down to focus on Madonna and her circle of friends, who bravely face up to evil.
Effective for readers who appreciate supernatural gore, but the timeline becomes hard to track.