Chapelwood, by Cherie Priest

Chapelwood Book Cover Chapelwood
The Borden Dispatches #2
Cherie Priest
Horror, fantasy
Sep 1 2015

Birmingham, Alabama is infested with malevolence. Prejudice and hatred have consumed the minds and hearts of its populace. A murderer, unimaginatively named “Harry the Hacker” by the press, has been carving up citizens with a hatchet. And from the church known as Chapelwood, an unholy gospel is being spread by a sect that worships dark gods from beyond the heavens.

This darkness calls to Lizzie Borden. It is reminiscent of an evil she had dared hoped was extinguished. The parishioners of Chapelwood plan to sacrifice a young woman to summon beings never meant to share reality with humanity. An apocalypse will follow in their wake which will scorch the earth of all life.

Unless she stops it…

Oh, yes! Maplecroft has a sequel, and it is Chapelwood.

As a sequel, it may disappoint some readers, because of the distance in time from the first book.  In this one, Lizzie Borden - I mean, Lizbeth Andrew - is an old lady on the verge of becoming an old cat lady. The cats are the only company she keeps at Maplecroft now.

(Side note: I really, really want more genre fiction featuring older female protagonists.)

Now, given the decades that have passed,  there won't be much of a reunion with the cast of the previous books - some are there, some have a vague and implied presence, but mostly we are dealing with Chapelwood, and Chapelwood is in a small town in Alabama.  Far from Fall River in Massachusetts.

There is a lot of anger and fear and hate in this small town in Alabama, just at the start of the 20th century. The Ku Klux Klan has a firm foothold, and the local media refers to them openly.   Ruth's father is quite likely a klansman; he's certainly angry and hateful.   Her mother, well,  Ruth's mother had given up long before Ruth came into the world.   She's not going to object when her husband decides to take the family to a new church.  A different, very different, church.   Ruth can't stand it - she runs away.

The little town has drawn attention from other parts of the country, though. Odd things are going on there; an ongoing spree of axe murders,  somehow different from the other cases of racist hate crime.  Inspector Simon Wolf is paying attention from Boston, even before he becomes personally involved.

So - Lizzie Borden, creepy church, axe murders.  I've been thoroughly entertained, and I have very high hopes for the next book - because the ending very much makes me expect, and hope for, a next book. (It manages to do this while also delivering satisfaction and closure on its own, by the way,  which I make explicit note of because of the terrible amount of series-starter novels I've read lately that have miserably failed at being individually complete books. )

Good stuff for fantasy/steampunk readers who appreciate a sprinkle of Lovecraftian horror.  (And very well suited for the season - it is nearly October, after all...!)

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