Reviewed by Emerian Rich
For: Those who enjoy small-town horror stories and mysteries.
Content warning: Suicide, child abuse, child abduction, addiction, prostitution, murder, hanging.
In Cursed by Richard Schiver, Susan and her daughter are trying to rebuild their lives after her husband’s death. His absence has left them alone and grasping for a new sense of normal despite their grief. Local contractor and Susan’s possibly new guy, Eric, wants to be part of their world, but can he?
Meanwhile, little kids are being drawn away from their homes by a ghost girl and a supposed witch. This is a curse that’s been infecting the small community of Porter Mines for decades. They are led to a pond and can fall into the pond or into crevices and tunnels that are around it.
Susan’s daughter, Christine, is drawn away and her bunny–that was a last gift from her deceased father–falls into a crevice. Thankfully, Christine is saved by her mom and Eric, but the bunny is lost in the crevice. The Porter Mines witch has struck again!
As the missing children count goes up, the sheriff strives to investigate. The sheriff was just a rookie when the first disappearances happened 30 years ago and he’s been ruminating over them ever since, but now it’s happening again. He hopes he can stop it this time. But when a guy from town returns to exact revenge on those who he feels wronged him, will he mess up the investigation by killing the sheriff? Or is he involved in the decades-long curse?
Although the witch is blamed, it seems pretty clear that she is not what is taking the kids, but who is? Is it a human drawn to the allure of children and reenacting a supposed urban legend? Or is it something supernatural? And when Christine disappears again, the time clock speeds up for Susan and Eric to find her and put an end to this crazy curse.
This novel was a fun read. It unwinds slowly and gives you pieces of different stories and layers of information that have you always wondering if the villain is a supernatural or a human monster. I enjoyed the different storylines and felt like even though we were getting closer and closer to the truth, the other storylines had just as much importance to the tale as the main thread of child abduction.
Although the main character is Susan, I felt also drawn into the lives of the sheriff and the poor little girl (Twila) who had to put up with an addicted mother. One strange thing that I don’t know was intentional was the similarities between the characters. Although Susan and Twila never really interact, their backgrounds are so similar, it feels like the author is showing us an unspoken camaraderie they carry for one another. Can the abused sense the abused, even without saying a word? Are we seeing a child and then a grown-up version of the same child? Or perhaps the author is showing us that everyone–from the little school girl to the sheriff–have troubles in their lives that are never spoken of, that they are not proud of, that haunt them…and we are all not so different after all. You’ll have to read the book to discover which message he is trying to convey.
This is a great book for readers who enjoy small-town horror like Stephen King’s The Storm of the Century or Koontz’s Phantoms and is available at Amazon.com.