Freak Night At The Slee-Z Motel: Amy M. Vaughn
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Amy M Vaugh’s tribute to the often mishandled or disrespected freakshow stereotypes ticks all the boxes you might expect pretty early on, giving you glimpses of dog-faced boys, conjoined twins and fire eaters before getting into the meat of the matter, namely murder.
Freak Night’s protagonists have more to worry about than dwindling returns and unsympathetic audiences, as a motel stopover leads them into a path of what can only be described as a shit of Karens (I’ve decided that “shit” is the plural of Karen); two hoteliers who think they can ‘fix’ their unusual guests.
The plot hops around briefly between past & present early on, taking its time to set up the characters before pitching them towards the titular hotel, which is where the pacing really picks up. The performers soon team up with a few other hotel residents, all of whom get a few moments in the spotlight, fleshing them out beyond supporting cast status. The same attention to detail goes into the cast of freaks – none of them are portrayed as the stereotypes you may take them for, which is kind of the point of the story. Interestingly though, the villainous shits who go after the troupe aren’t your standard bad guy types either, which gives the story even more bite.
And speaking of bite, there’s a sharp sting of violence in this book. Things don’t really get nasty until just before the halfway mark, but when they get nasty they get nas-tay, with flesh being scraped right down to the bone and a face peel session that’ll leave you feeling itchy and icky. Nothing is left to the imagination as the unfortunate motel guests fall victim to some grim and occasionally darkly humorous fates. You won’t look at broomsticks and melons in the same light after this one, trust me. And even if you think you’ve seen it all by the midway section, the surprises keep coming, and the bad guys keep getting badder, until the final, blood-splattered confrontation.
That finale does slam the brakes on a bit fast, but there’s enough carnage beforehand that a drawn-out ending might have been overkill. The ending is the only part of the book I can see as being divisive, as there’s plenty to enjoy beforehand, but for my tastes I could have done with a brief epilogue, mostly because I wanted to read more about what happened to everyone.
Leaving you wanting more is no bad thing though, so (prepare yourself for the inevitable hospitality-related pun here) overall, it’s well worth checking in to this establishment.
Freak Night At The Slee-Z Hotel
When the Main Event Sideshow is waylaid at an isolated desert motel, they become the target of two homicidal xenophobes who want to “fix” them. With the help of other freaks they meet along the way, as well as one albino chupacabra, maybe some of them will make it through the night.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.