This is an excellent tale of teenage friendship and demonic possession. As young girls, Abby and Gretchen become fast friends. As they hit their mid teens, Gretchen begins to change, sparked by a night of youthful experimentation that goes wrong. As you might expect, it takes a while for Abby to realise that this isn’t adolescent petulance, but rather that her best friend has been possessed by a demon. Once the satanic penny finally drops, she becomes caught up in an all consuming struggle for Gretchen’s soul, aided by an unlikely troupe of Christian bodybuilders.
There’s a distinct 80s nostalgia to the settting, with all kinds of namedrops and references, only some of which meant anything this side of the Atlantic, but the intent is clear. This also has a lot of the flavour of classic 70s religious horror movies like The Exorcist and The Omen. It’s a fast moving engrossing book that kept me turning the pages. I really cared about whether or not Gretchen could be saved, and I found the portrayal of the all encompassing friendship between the girls quite moving. Other highlights of the book include a genuinely spooky phone call, a climax that is over the top in all the right ways, and a poignant final chapter. A special shout for the depiction of Charleston – Hendrix evokes a decaying swampy atmosphere that fits the narrative perfectly. This is his second novel. I’ve always been tempted by the first (Horrorstor – a novel disguised as an IKEA catalogue!), and now I’ll definitely pick it up.