Juniper – Ross Jeffery
Reviewed by Alicia Hilton
Ross Jeffery’s Juniper is a marvellous, twisted tale. I love it when authors combine a suspenseful plot with eccentric characters, horror, and humour, and I’d heard that Juniper was that type of book, but the story exceeded my expectations. It’s a short book, but the visceral prose is memorable. The novella touches on universal topics that will appeal to readers—the need to belong, the yearning for love, and themes of transformation, good and evil, and what it means to be a monster.
From the opening paragraphs, my attention was riveted by the description of the story’s setting. “You wouldn’t find it on any map, try as you might, because it seemed to evade those looking for it, hidden within a crease or untraceable like floaters in the eye. Juniper was a forgotten pissant town, a town which none of the bordering states wanted to claim ownership of; its existence was an abhorrent reminder of all that was wrong in the world. They’d rather it suffocate and fall out of existence. But Junipeans were made of sterner stuff, and they always found a way to survive.”
Jeffery’s prose was sharp and witty, and I found myself chuckling more than once. For instance, Jeffery’s description of Betty Davis’s cantankerous personality was marvellous. When other Junipeans had lost the will to survive, she was still trolling the roads, collecting bottles for recycling and scavenging roadkill for her meals. “Betty, always frugal with her dwindling savings from the sale of some of her farmland, now survived on roadkill…It seemed that any animal that was mowed down on the outskirts of town, or gave up the ghost due to the scorching solar glare belonged to her in some archaic way….Bumps in the road signified meals, something to satiate her continual hunger. ‘Fast food,’ she called it.” When Betty finds an injured cat, a feral creature that’s bigger than any cat should ever be, the story takes off, chugging along like a freight train that’s lost its brakes.
As I read more, the suspense built, and I suspected that the story would take a weird turn, but the plot twists were even more bizarre than I had anticipated. Making Juniper great again by raising cats as livestock? A mongrel tomcat that becomes as big as a puma? And Betty’s plan to fix the monstrous ginger, “Tom,” so it would stay with her forever? Betty’s desire for companionship reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s character Annie Wilkes, the crazed fan who tried to trap author Paul Sheldon in Misery, but Ross Jeffery’s Juniper portrayed a different kind of obsession.
Betty’s surgical experimentation on the huge, wounded cat produced unintended, grisly consequences. The plot got weirder, and weirder, accelerating towards a freakish crescendo, but I found myself suspending disbelief, with a big grin on my face, since Juniper was the kind of creepy little town where anything could happen.
5 out of 5 Stars for Juniper. Grab a copy of Ross Jeffery’s twisted tale, and enjoy the mayhem.
Juniper is the first book in Ross Jeffery’s novella trilogy: a post-apocalyptic horror about an insane American town seemingly at the edge of reality. As Juniper suffers from scorching drought and medieval famine, the townsfolk are forced to rely on the ‘new cattle’ for food: monstrous interbred cats kept by the oppressed Janet Lehey.
But there’s a problem: Janet’s prized ginger tom, Bucky, has gone missing, flown the coop. As Janet and her deranged ex-con husband Klein intensify their search for the hulking mongrel, Betty Davis, an old woman clinging to survival on the outskirts of Juniper, discovers something large and ginger and lying half-dead by the side of the road.
She decides to take it home…
Juniper is surreal, dark, funny, and at times: excruciatingly grotesque. Buckle up for a wild ride through the dust-ridden roads of a tiny, half-forgotten American town…
Hilton is an author, law professor, arbitrator, actor, and former FBI Special Agent. She believes in angels and demons, magic and monsters. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Akashic Books, Bronzeville Books, Daily Science Fiction, Demain Publishing UK, Dreams & Nightmares, Vastarien, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volumes 4 & 5, and elsewhere.
You can find out more about Alicia via her official website www.aliciahilton.com
You can follow Alicia on Twitter @aliciahilton01
Moonlight, Gunshot, Mallet, Flame
This two story collection includes the tales: MOONLIGHT, GUNSHOT, MALLET, FLAME and A LITTLE DEATH.
Writing about her Short Sharp Shocks! author Alicia Hilton said: “These are stories about dangerous women who confront supernatural forces. When the moon is full passion simmers and demons strike. Who will survive? ”
Of MOONLIGHT, GUNSHOT, MALLET, FLAME, Alicia summed up her tale, thus: “Laura is a hitwoman who murdered men to avenge and protect innocent victims, but her violent past catches up to her after she kills her nephew. Are Laura’s terrifying visions hallucinations, or real?“
And of her second story, A LITTLE DEATH: “An Internet date unites two monsters. Descended from flesh-eating witches, Darla must choose whether to embrace her magical powers and kill, or risk her own destruction for love.”