Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 7th, 2016
Synopsis: Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend.
That, and there was that boy, Max Larson…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now fear is reborn–and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth might be too horrifying to imagine.
I loved Ania Ahlborn’s previous book, Brother, and while I had a few issues with The Devil Crept In, it’s clear that she is an excellent storyteller along the same lines of horror writers like Stephen King. The book is divided into three sections with part one focusing on ten-year-old Stevie Clark’s determination to find his cousin and best friend, Jude. While I’m all for slow-building horror and suspense, I found myself getting a bit impatient with the pacing in the beginning. I felt as though Ahlborn spent a little too much time on the set-up. The second part takes you back in time, detailing a creepy house in the woods and the backstory of Rosie, the woman who lives there. The third part brings both storylines together. I never once felt disconnected and Ahlborn does a brilliant job at fitting all the pieces together. My biggest issue was that with the exception of a few, the majority of adults in this story are completely one-dimensional and do not come across in a positive light. You’ve got the abusive step-father stereotype, the abused mother who can’t/won’t protect her children, and the judgmental, holier-than-thou townsfolk. There are two characters that don’t fall into these stereotypes. One is Stevie’s teacher, but sadly she only makes a brief appearance. The other is an elderly shop keeper who tries to help Stevie, but he’s maddeningly slow at giving him much needed information. And of course there’s Rosie, who I found utterly exasperating at times, yet still emphasized with the horror her life had become. Ania Ahlborn is also an absolute genius at creating subtle and menacing atmospheres and creepy goosebump-raising storylines. I was completely sucked into the small town of Deer Creek and its hidden horrors and I felt as though I were actually in the story. But the absolute best part of the book is ten-year-old Stevie, whose courage and innocence is what drives the story and his attributes are in direct contrast to the disturbing nature of the narrative and the rest of the characters. His resilience is remarkable given that he’s surrounded by adults, who at best don’t believe the things he insists he’s witnessed, and at worst are verbally and physically abusive. Making things worse is that Stevie suffers from an unnamed disorder(s), which further adds to the suspicion and doubt that people view him with. Yet despite all this, this small child never gives up and I absolutely loved him. The ending is complicated, and there’s some questions I had that weren’t answered, yet for the most part it’s in keeping with the rest of the story. Despite its flaws, I found The Devil Crept In to be a disturbing and emotional read, and one which I have no problem recommending. It’s a solid blend of horror, mystery and suspense and it’s left me excited for Ania Ahlborn’s next venture.