by Adam Cesare
Available on Amazon.com
What would happen if you took Bubba Ho-Tep with its old folks home backdrop, then replaced the oddball comedy with the most hair-raising, blood-curdling moments of The Evil Dead? Well, you might wind up with Mercy House.
No sign of Bruce Campbell in this taut-paced novel, but the manic pace and otherworldly manifestations do lend themselves to his brand of horror.
What you basically have in Mercy House is an out of the way seniors complex. The owners present it to folks as an idyllic place to admit elderly relatives, so they can enjoy all the wonderful amenities like fine dining, hot tubs, and frequent social events. In reality, the place is a wee bit shady, cutting corners where it can and employing a few people who fall short of "Employee of the Month." It's not a dungeon by any stretch ... at least not yet. Because, ya see, one day all hell breaks loose. Inexplicably, something happens to the residents of Mercy House, just as a prospective new resident is being given the grand tour. Carnage, to put it lightly, ensues.
In one sense, the novel feels a little familiar, at least with the jump off. An opening chapter that gives a glimpse of the terror, then the intro of the key players and just enough character development for you to give a damn whether they live or die, then pull the lever and let the madness begin. But once it does kick off with the bedlam, the familiarity is replaced with a kind of disorienting dread. This is not a mystery novel. Don't look for answers. Look for questions, and amid the bloodletting there are some touched upon questions of our autumn years, our mortality, and our unspoken frailties bubbling to the surface in unsavory ways.
Adam Cesare is really good in writing what feels like a cinematic slaughterhouse. He did it with Tribesmen, which I loved, and he's done it here. If visceral, unvarnished horror is your preferred reading experience, you've got a good one here.