Rating: 5 out of 5
T. Kingfisher’s horror tale The Hollow Places: A Novel kept me stuck to my seat until I finished it! Kara’s Uncle Earl runs the Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy. When Kara gets divorced, Earl suggests she move into the back room and help organize and run the museum. She’s grateful for the opportunity–she has a lot of great memories of the museum, loves her Uncle Earl, and very much does not want to live with her mother. She ends up having a lot of good conversations with the barista next door. When someone apparently punches a hole in the wall of the museum, Kara and Simon realize that the space behind the wall is impossible. There are no studs, pipes, or wires. There’s a concrete hallway with a dead body at one end and a whole other world up the mysterious stairs.
Uncle Earl is a peach of a character. He loves everyone, even if that means having to hold conflicting opinions on things. So many families suck in horror that it’s nice to see one good family relationship. Simon has a couple of odd stories to tell–one of his eyes is different genetically from most of the rest of him (you’ll have to read to find out the excellent story behind that), and sometimes he sees things other people can’t. Simon is gay, but he transcends the obvious stereotypes–he’s just an interesting person and a really good friend to Kara (also known as “Carrot” to Earl and Simon).
There’s a coincidence that keeps happening that Kara and Simon keep missing. This is the first time I’ve read something like this and not been frustrated by it. It’s almost played up as though the author is winking at us and is in on the joke, and I found it funny instead of annoying.
The world that Kara and Simon find their way into is very, very dangerous. There are a bunch of seemingly identical bunkers all over the place. There are willow trees that might not be what they seem. A mysterious “They” can’t be seen, but They like to both eat and play with humans, with horrifying results. (“PRAY THAT THEY ARE HUNGRY”)
The tension builds up in The Hollow Places so smoothly and steadily that I didn’t notice it until my shoulders were up by my ears and I hadn’t blinked in a while. The museum and its odd collection do come into play in some really fun ways, and it’s nice to have a horror story where there’s never any doubt that the male and female leads will not be falling for each other.
“Come on, let’s go back to the coffee shop and I’ll make us Irish coffees and we’ll discuss this like people who don’t die in the first five minutes of a horror movie.”