The whispers were getting louder and louder about Kill Creek, so loud I had to take the plunge and find out for myself exactly what the buzz was about before the spoilers started. I love the haunted house genre but it’s so difficult to find anything original, from what little I knew about the debut novel from Scott Thomas, Kill Creek may just be what I was looking for.
At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…
When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.
The house in Kill Creek has a very dark and violent past, rumours of hauntings and supernatural phenomena are only strengthened once the famous paranormal investigator Dr Adubel visits. Invited to stay at the property by current owners, the Finch sisters, two spinsters who bought the house in 1975. The book documenting his experiences at Kill Creek ‘Phantoms of the Prairie’ becomes a bestseller and in doing so cements the house in history.
Moving forward to current day, we’re introduced to internet TV sensation, Wainwright. He thinks he may of come up with his latest blockbuster…broadcast an event where four of the most successful horror writers spend a night at the now abandoned house in Kill Creek! Now before you roll your eyes, yes that is one of the oldest plot devices in the book, but what Scott Thomas has done is not thrown 4 stereotypical cliche ridden characters into the house, these characters are superbly written, all with depth and interesting back stories who fully contribute to the plot. Firstly we have Sam McGarver, a novelist that is currently teaching whilst battling crippling writers block, next up is Sebastian Cole the well-respected, grandfather of modern horror fiction. Third, Daniel Slaughter, a prolific YA author whose novels tend to have a strong Christian message. Last, and by no means least, TC Moore. She’s a self published author of erotica which is as heavy on the violence as it is the sex. All four have a reason to take Wainwright up on the offer to stay at the house and capitalise on the publicity. Sam hopes it will help him beat his aforementioned writers block and earn him more time to write that book his agent is pestering him for. Sebastian is an old hand, a writer of ‘old school’ horrors and see’s this opportunity as a chance to attract a new reader base. Daniel Slaughter is starting to question his faith and is concerned his books are becoming too dark and will be dropped by his publisher unless he can salvage his reputation. TC Moore has been shut out of the creative process of adapting one of her novels for the big screen, she sees this as an opportunity to try and regain control of her career.
The voices Scott Thomas has given these four authors are absolutely Kill Creeks strengths. Dialogue is very well written, with the interaction between McGarver and Moore being a particular highlight. The author cleverly envelopes everyone in the house with an incredibly oppressive atmosphere, tensions are magnified, personalities clash and the group start to question everything that they believe in as the house slowly starts to come to life. Thomas has written this so well it’s almost in what he doesn’t put on the page that amplifies the horrors to unbearable levels.
The books starts off like a love letter to the horror genre with plenty of references to classic movies and literature, as the story progressed it spoke more about the writers and the creative process. (I’d be interested in what other authors thought of this). This aspect was very interesting and kept the book grounded in a realism that only amplified the many scares that occur. Something that I really enjoyed, though subtle, I felt that Kill Creek had passages throughout that mimic the individual authors genres. This blew me away, it’s skillfully done. I also enjoyed the plot foreshadowing made by a character early in the book, again subtle and played out in a self-aware way that echoed the Wes Craven slasher Scream. Kill Creek is so much more than a haunted house story, in fact a lot of the book isn’t even situated in the house, yet it’s omnipresent. It’s a house that I’d love to read more about, saying that, I guess it’s the Creek I’d be interested in revisiting, especially those vines. I’ll say no more as I don’t want to wander into spoilers. I did have a couple of niggles with the book, nothing book breaking but I’ll just mention one that did annoy me, the character that could run with a broken ankle. Really?
Kill Creek is a brilliant book, the best I’ve read this year. It’s superbly written, with an engrossing plot, incredibly strong characters and dialogue that crackles. With minimal reliance on the old tropes, Kill Creek is packed with scares and nerve wrenching tension. The reader’s treated with respect and is rewarded with first class story telling. Kill Creek is remarkably cinematic at times, I did initially think that a movie adaption would be fantastic to see. I don’t think this is the case now, a movie would never be able to do justice to the source material, let your minds eye and Scott Thomas’ pen make that movie for you.
Scott Thomas has written a novel in Kill Creek that I hope will find it’s place among the classics of the genre. It really is that good!
Star Rating (out of 5): 5*****