Four friends reunite at a bed-and-breakfast and find some local Halloween-themed attractions to be a little too frightening in Gibson’s debut horror yarn.
Married couple Josh and Julia meet up with their pals Dillon and Tara at the tail end of the PumpkinFest at Winter’s Farm and Orchard. They arrive at their booked B&B suites, but their other friend, Shelly, hasn’t arrived yet. At the first night’s bonfire, self-proclaimed journalist Carrie approaches them and says that she’s investigating locals Ma and Pa Winter, who may be responsible for a “pattern of disappearances.”
Josh and company write off Carrie as crazy, especially after she declares that the kids on the farm are all spies. A spooky moonlight hayride, however, seems shockingly lifelike, featuring clowns and chainsaw-wielding figures dragging people away. One of those people is Carrie, and later, Julia is unnerved when it looks like Carrie hasn’t returned to her room.
The next day, the four friends spot a few other peculiarities, such as a local boy momentarily losing his Appalachian accent and sporting a Rolex. After cellphone service and Wi-Fi become inaccessible, the group decides it’s best to leave. But Ma and Pa and their creepy kin may want the four to stick around. This novel seems tailor-made to become a horror movie, with its isolated city folk and disturbing, possibly murderous “hicks.”
Josh and company are prone to occasional bouts of stupidity, much like characters in a slasher film; for example, they really should have stopped drinking Ma’s cider. Nevertheless, Gibson knows that readers have seen this type of story before and delivers an enjoyable romp that’s alternately terrifying and foreboding.
The main characters are initially unsympathetic when they mock the townies, but readers will cheer them on after their story turns into a bloody fight to survive. Gibson’s also not above spurts of black comedy, as when one character coldly notes, “Curiosity killed that cat. That an’ a chainsaw.”
Although readers will know what to expect, this spine-tingling book will still induce shrieks. – Kirkus Reviews