Rating: 2 out of 5
When I saw someone recommending Sean Seebach’s novella The Buck Stops Here on Twitter, it was mentioned as being similar to Alan Baxter’s “The Roo” (demonically-possessed kangaroo) and Stephanie Rabig’s “Playing Possum” (were-possums!). In other words, horror/humor based around seemingly ridiculous concepts. However, where I loved those two books, I really didn’t enjoy this one.
As you might imagine, The Buck Stops Here is a horror story about a were-deer. After reading those other two books, I fully believe this concept could be turned into something darkly humorous. It starts with Sheriff Abigail Laine of Rockbridge, Ohio. When her boyfriend’s teenage son gets decapitated while riding his bike home one night, her nice, quiet job (and life) gets turned upside down.
There’s a bizarre moment where Abigail is visiting her boyfriend Nick, and she starts to see a nose emerge from the coffee in the coffee pot. You read that right–a nose. It’s dismissed as her imagination running away with her, and nothing like it happens for the rest of the book. It’s mind-boggling. I mean seriously, what the hell?
A lot of the book is a bit like that. Things happen for little or no apparent reason. Words are used incorrectly. There are inconsistencies of detail. Both character dialogue and character actions are awkward. All of the characters feel like a kid’s idea of how grownups would act. It’s overly wordy in places, and there’s too much ruminating, especially given the short length of the book. Unfortunately all of this stuff also makes many of the descriptions confusing. I had trouble concentrating on the book because it was largely slow and uninteresting. Not a whole lot happens. There’s little real humor here; those other two books kept a wonderful tongue-in-cheek attitude while simultaneously delivering chills, but this doesn’t. It feels too earnest.
Pretty much the only idea that’s consistent and interesting is Abigail’s OCPD tendencies (she has to straighten everything out and checks her coffee-maker three times to be sure it’s off when she leaves). The only problem is that this is the most stereotypical symptom, and yet she’s clear of most of the others.
The townspeople take to the idea of a were-deer awfully quickly and easily. There’s little skepticism to be had. There’s an old woman, Ms. Adley, who has a whole lot of knowledge regarding what’s going on. Okay, so she’s seen this happen before and thus has some idea of what’s causing it. But how on earth does she know where she has to go to attack it?! She has way more knowledge of this than makes any sense.
The book becomes more and more of a mish-mash as you go. There are a couple of nice bloody deaths and a good basic idea, but that’s about all it has to recommend it.