The Graveyard Feeder: Jack Keaton
Reviewed By Steve Stred
When this book was offered for review, I snagged it. The synopsis caught my attention and, while I wasn’t too sure how foul-mouthed Burke would be utilized, I was excited to read this novella.
Graveyards always seem to catch our imaginations and offer up any number of directions that dark fiction can travel in. With that in mind, I jumped in, wondering just where Keaton would take me.
What I liked: Burke Sawyer works at the Graveyard where his father used to work. He’s not a good worker, in fact, he’s pretty bumbling and the owner is incompetent, leading to numerous complaints as well as excessive violations – both morally and legally. On the day that an inspector is coming, Burke finds a body zip-tied in a bag.
When he can’t dispose of it in the incinerator, things take a turn and suddenly we get gravesites exploding and corpses being devoured.
The pacing is fantastic. The book hums along and no matter how ridiculous Burke is, you want to know what happens. The backstory was intriguing, if not a bit underwhelming, but with the length of the book, I wasn’t expecting a lot of depth regarding the why.
Keaton had me racing through the story, wanting to see how Burke responded and what craziness awaited him and his dad.
What I didn’t like: It’s odd, because there was a prologue, which really didn’t feel like part of the overall story. And there is a lot of humor throughout, something I struggle with in dark fiction. So, if you like zany banter and crazy hijinks, this is definitely for you.
Why you should buy this: Overall, this was a fun, fast read, one that zipped along and had me invested in just what was going on. Burke’s a character that made me want to see what happens and his interactions and relationship with his dad was a highlight within.
The Graveyard Feeder
Jackson Boylen, an elderly man, races through the woods terrified and white as a ghost. He rushes into his home, locking every door. Hearing the basement bulkhead crash open, he quietly sneaks down. Observing his beloved wife Delores, he discovers a terrible secret she’s been hiding from him for more than 50 years. This prompts Jackson to do the unthinkable: he brutally lynches her right then and there.
For the crass and lazy gravedigger Burke Sawyer, becoming a hero overnight seems as unlikely as him sobering up. Unfortunately for him, today is not the day to screw things up at the only cemetery in the small town of Juniper Falls. As shady funeral director, Purvis PooKutty, deals with the possibility of being shut down by lawyer Shelly Tate. As he manages Shelly, he passes the responsibility of disposing of Mrs. Boylen’s corpse onto Burke. Upon discovering the furnace is broken, Burke forgoes very explicit instructions to burn the corpse and instead places the body into Plot 29 (an open grave). However, this corpse has no intention of staying dead.
As soon as the dead body hits the earth, dirt and soot explode as Mrs. Boylen disappears below, tunneling her way underground. She has become a living necromancer. Stumbling back to his shack black-out drunk, Burke passes out only to be woken hours later by his deceased father’s cantankerous ghost, Pop Sawyer. Without a choice, Burke learns that the body he should have cremated is eating its way buffet-style through the corpses beneath the weathered tombstones.
Unless Burke can stop this creature, all the souls (including Pop’s) will never rest in peace. It isn’t too long before Burke saves his father’s corpse, exhuming the old cooter, and hiding the corpse inside the broken furnace much to Pop’s vocal dismay. The accidental death of Purvis prompts Burke to take Shelly captive, dragging her to Jackson’s home to try and uncover the mystery behind the events unfolding in the cemetery.
Burke and Shelly arrive at Jackson’s residence unannounced, demanding answers. Jackson offers them shelter from the coming danger. There He reveals his beloved wife is actually a witch and part of a coven. It isn’t long until the coven arrives, seeking answers about their fallen sister. Jackson takes down two witches. However, the remaining three, including the evil Miss Caldwell overpowers them and kills Jackson.
Burke manages to strike a twisted deal: in exchange for the means to defeat Delores, save the souls of the dead, and restore the cemetery, Burke agrees to a deal that costs him more than he bargained for: his heart is ripped from his chest and a curse is set on him causing his flesh to rot.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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