December 30, 2013

Small Town, Big Evil: a review of Adam Cesare's "The Summer Job"

The Summer Job
256 pages
ISBN13: 9781619218123
Maybe you had a crappy summer job when you were young, but I'm willing to bet you didn't worry about a satanic cult congregating in the storeroom. For Claire, the main character of this time, she's not so lucky.

Claire is out of college with no job and no prospects, and eventually lets her roommate talk her into taking a summer job in the little town of Missions, Massachusetts, working in a bed and breakfast called the Brant Hotel. Claire is a recovering punk girl trying to infuse some responsible behavior in her life, so being squirreled away in a tiny, nothing-happening town for the summer just might do the trick. Too bad she's in Mission, Massachusetts.

To put it plainly, Mission makes Salem's Lot look downright quaint.

If the killer cult sacrificing tourists out in the woods doesn't get you, the killer cult sacrificing tourists behind closed doors in town will. Oh yeah, Claire is between a rock and a hard place, or at least she would be if she had half a clue what was going on under her own nose. Instead, she has fallen into some old habits from her wilder days, and fallen for the dashing rogue who belongs to the campfire commune out in the woods behind the Brant Hotel.

And there's the frustrating thing about The Summer Job. Claire is a classic dimwit in the slasher genre. And with the novel offering chapters from the viewpoints of other characters who are knee-deep in all of the unholy shenanigans, it's all the more confounding that Claire's Spidey senses are going off like Jiffy Pop. There was a lot of horror in this novel, but I didn't feel a whole lot of suspense. Granted, the characters are so fleshed out (no pun intended) and come nowhere near the two-dimensional meat puppets that you find in cinematic fare, that the enjoyment of the book comes from seeing the competing levels of depravity between the two groups, the old guard in town and the younger, hipper psychos in the woods.

The Summer Job defies the genre, so I give it points there, but I think it came down to me wanting a more keenly focused story through just Claire's point-of-view, which would have helped me become much more invested in whether she lived or died. As it stands, the spectacle is good, but more intrigue would have made it great.