In Dutch author Heuvelt’s English-language debut, a town haunted by a 17th-century witch uncovers the true face of evil—and it’s not supernatural.
Black Spring, New York, seems like many other picturesque towns near the Hudson River except for one feature: Katherine van Wyler, a woman who was executed for witchcraft in the 1600s but somehow remained to haunt the residents of the town and their descendants. The witch herself is a terrible sight: bound in chains, with her eyes and mouth sewn shut to prevent her from directly taking revenge on anyone, she nevertheless wields power over the town. Those who live there can never leave, because if they're absent for too long, they're overcome by suicidal urges. A group of Black Spring teenagers, led by Tyler Grant, decides to record their interactions with her, intending to post the truth across the Internet. Their desire to break the code of silence turns dangerous when one boy, himself the victim of domestic abuse, goes too far in humiliating Katherine, and someone dies. The town descends rapidly into chaos as Katherine takes her revenge and people begin to do unspeakable things. Heuvelt offers up a truly terrifying parable about mankind’s depravity and the depths of evil of which we are capable; his point, of course, is that little truly separates us from history’s most terrible moments, including the Puritan persecution of witches. The story is not merely unsettling, it is horrifying, and there is no redemption or image of hope in which one can find solace. But one cannot deny that it is well-done: the narrative stands up to some gaps in logic to persuade the reader that “civilized people” are only a few steps away from madness.
Don’t expect any hint of optimism; read it if you dare!