Rating: 5 out of 5
Todd Keisling’s novel Devil’s Creek manages to pack in a whole lot of horror! In 1983 Kentucky, Father Jacob Masters of the Lord’s Church of Holy Voices plans a sacrifice to his dark lord under the earth. He has fathered six children on six women, solely for this purpose. The children’s grandparents raid the church and steal the kids away, leaving the church to burn and killing Father Jacob. The six half-siblings become known as the “Stauford Six,” and they never really fit in in the town of Stauford. Jack, one of the Six and a successful artist who makes bank from his nightmares, returns to town when his grandmother, Imogene (Genie), dies so that he can settle her estate. Only Genie is the last of the grandparents to die, and it triggers a return of Father Jacob.
I love the six siblings–they have a complex web of relationships. Susan wants to follow her father. Zeke is a misfit who ends up providing drugs to the chief of police. Jack is an artist; Stephanie is a radio DJ playing “the Devil’s music” despite the protest much of the town has kicked up. Chuck is a lawyer, and Bobby became a reverend. Bobby’s the only one who had a child, rebellious 15-year-old Riley. These people definitely have depth to them. There’s a certain closeness to them–the Stauford Six against the world–and yet lines are drawn between them. Riley is stoked to meet his Uncle Jack, and spends a lot of time with his Aunt Stephanie, who handles his rebellion much better than Bobby does. All six have been severely traumatized, and each of them has handled that differently.
Father Jacob has his sights set on the world this time around, starting with the population of Stauford. The god beneath the earth that he follows is definitely not of this world. My only mild bit of cognitive dissonance came from some letters found in a book of Imogene’s research notes, regarding a strange idol found beneath the church. There’s a letter from a professor at Miskatonic U, and even mention of the Necronomicon. Since the author had done such a brilliant job of making this book feel real, that pulled me out of things a bit. That’s seriously the only negative I had in the entire thing.
Content note for child abuse and rape, sexual content, a brief bit of animal harm, incest, and racial violence/racism.