The Red Church, by Scott Nicholson

the-red-church-by-scott-nicholson coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Pinnacle Horror
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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I couldn’t tell you where, but I’ve read some Scott Nicholson stories before; on the web or in print, I’m not sure, but I recognized his name when I saw it on the cover of this book. It’s his first published novel and if what’s showcased here is any indication, we’re in for a treat as his career progresses.

One thing that stuck with me about a Nicholson story is his outstanding ability to create a setting and imbue it with atmosphere. The places he writes about are just as much characters as the people he populates his stories with. The Red Church is no exception. The mountains and lore of western North Carolina live and breathe. Nicholson’s steeped himself in Southern Appalachian culture and his knowledge shows. It won’t be long before you’re looking over your shoulder, expecting to see the leering features of the Hung Priest.

Twenty years after leaving, Archer McFall returns to Whispering Pines to claim his heritage. The descendant of the Hung Preacher, he is both more and less than he seems. He has purchased the Red Church and begins its restoration and midnight services. It’s not long after he arrives that a series of strange murders take place. The various local inhabitants find themselves involved in one way or another in a complex plot intended to both take revenge and bring power to something not human.

Ronnie Day is a 13 year-old boy whose mother has fallen under Archer’s spell. Ronnie’s father saved her once and thought he had killed Archer; now he has to face the demon once again. Sheriff Frank Littlefield’s younger brother died in an accident at the church twenty years ago; he has been haunted by the event ever since. Now he’s seeing his brother’s ghost and his worst fears are coming to life as the Red Church is restored.

The writing here is lush and descriptive when it needs to be, and lean and tight elsewhere. Nicholson keeps the story moving at a brisk pace with realistic characters that do realistic things. A few nights I found myself playing the one-more-chapter game into the wee hours.

The Red Church is a very impressive debut. If you’re a fan of horror fiction or are looking to become one, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Let’s hope it’s not long before Nicholson puts out another!

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