Those Who Went Remain There Still
by Cherie Priest
Subterranean Press (2008)
After reading so many glowing reviews for Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, I placed the steampunk novel on my wish list, but when I caught word that she'd previously written a straight-up horror novel or two, I wanted to see that first.
Those Who Went Remain There Still is a suspenseful piece of historical fiction involving a monster and--get this--Daniel Boone as the backstory. The heart of the story revolves around the death of a elderly patriarch at the cusp of the 20th century, and the two sides of his warring family that have come together to learn the contents of his last will and testament--and their fates. The Manders and Coys have plenty of bad blood between them, and it is only brought out into the open even more when it's revealed that the old man's will was purposefully hidden in a cave on the property. And, it's called upon for a handful of the family members to venture into the cave and retrieve the will together, or face repercussions that will adversely affect the futures of all involved.
The cave carries a legend about people going in and never coming out, and while some in the family discount it as unenlightened superstition among an ignorant family, still more harbor an uneasy reverence towards the legend and the patriarch who perpetuated it. As the backstory involving Daniel Boone's trailblazing expedition and encounter with a predatory monster unfolds, the question of what might truly lurk inside that cave, if anything, becomes all the more tangible.
Cherie Priest does a heck of a job in not only capturing a slice of Kentuckian history with his novel, but provides some genuine horror with both storylines. Tension is palpable and treachery comes in all forms. While the story itself can be boiled down to a band of disparate characters facing off against a killer in the shadows, there's something about the tone of the story that helps it feel unique. Maybe it's the historical setting or maybe it's something else. It's a pretty short novel, too. Not even two hundred pages, but Priest doesn't waste any time or space in telling her tale, so probably anything more would feel like padding around the edges. Priest even calls this book a "cheesy little monster story"--or was that "creepy". Meh, she's right on both counts.
All I know is that I really liked this story and I'm eager to read Boneshaker even more, along with the rest of Cherie Priest's works.