by Barry Napier
self-published (2011) via The Kindle Store
Sometimes when you go out to the woods, particularly to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, you hear some strange noises out there in the wilderness. Most of the time, you never see what's causing those noises, but you count on it being something you'd see on the nature channel. Well, in Barry Napier's novel, The Masks of Our Fathers, the lingering paranoia that comes from hearing those noises and being unsure just what exactly is making them is used to great effect.
Jason Melhor has returned to his family cabin in central Virginia, outside the small town of Moore's Hollow. He hasn't been there in years, but he hasn't come back for some weekend escape to soak up the ambience and nostalgia. No, he's brought a pistol with him--and one bullet.
That's a pretty good hook, but it's only part of the story. When Jason gets out to the cabin and starts brooding over some bad memories involving his mother's suicide and father's death, he puts that gun in his mouth and discovers he can't pull the trigger. And, right at that moment, someone bursts into the cabin, bloodied, beaten, and scared as hell about whoever--or whatever--is chasing him. Things only get worse when a figure with black eyes and antlers steps into the cabin as well.
Barry's short stories are a treat to read, but this novel took a little time to warm up to. That's because it actually took a few chapters to get to what I thought of as the meat of the story, as the beginning of the book spends its time establishing Jason as a character, as well as Moore's Hollow as the setting. Once it gets going though, it was a pretty hard book to put down--or in the case of my e-book edition, a hard laptop to set down. A few redundant sentences in the first half of the book were a bit distracting, as they seemed to cover the same tidbit of information like a record skipping, but overall the mindset of Jason is delivered in an even flow that makes the story a bit of a mystery on top of a horror story, since not all of his history or his intentions are laid out at the beginning. And when he starts seeing and apparition of his dead father appear in the cabin, the relationships with his family, a lost love, and alcoholism gradually come to bare. Plus, the fear and pain that goes along with being both suicidal and incapacitated was an intriguing mix through the heart of the book.
It's a bit shorter a novel than I was expecting, but that might be a good thing since Jason spends a great deal of time alone, bound and abandoned inside the cabin after his initial encounter with the two strangers. I had a hard time getting into Stephen King's Gerald's Game for that very reason, so a slightly shorter novel works for me in that regard. It's a moody, broody horror novel that's worth giving a chance in my opinion, and with it presently going for $1.99 on Kindle, it's a genuine bargain.