People try to write horror every day, attempting to weave a tale fraught with vampires, death, darkness and bodies. But that’s usually all it is. Cliched ideas put together to create a story that’s been done over a thousand times.
Because of all the horror that’s been written and rewritten, it takes a very accomplished and talented writer to turn an old idea into something new. Jonathan Maberry builds the suspense in Dead Man’s Song with every page, describing his monsters in such a way that still manages to keep them mysterious. We don’t know what they are until the end of the book and despite the fact that they are revealed, there is still mystery, and we still want to know more.
In the continuation of Ghost Road Blues, we meet up with Malcolm Crow, ex-cop and owner of a small novelties shop—the Crow’s Nest—in Pine Deep, Pennsylvania. Nightmares of what occurred thirty years prior haunt him. The murders of his friends when he was a child and his near-death experience shape Dead Man’s Song as Crow and his fiancée Val, along with their friends and family, unwillingly face yet another nightmare.
Fear is written into every page and with character depth and numerous twists in the plotline, Maberry turns something that might have otherwise been “just another horror novel” into a story that keeps the reader hooked. Dead Man’s Song is filled with thick, almost tangible descriptions—“Birds sang noisily in the trees and the last lumbering flies of the season floated heavily by seeking quiet places to die.” The scene is set in such a way that we can almost feel it, smell it and taste it.
In Pine Deep, the most haunted town in America, Halloween is preceded by Little Halloween, when tourists from all over the country gather for huge parties and the biggest Haunted Hayride in the entire nation. When a criminal named Karl Ruger comes into town with his cronies, the bloodbath begins on Val Guthrie’s farm. Throughout the book, the body count rises.
From the beginning, when Val and Crow are in the hospital due to Ruger’s violent attacks, Maberry develops their relationship, balancing the negative energy with something positive.
The story flows perfectly from beginning to end. The blues songs that inspire and provide the eerie background for the story can almost be heard jumping off the pages. The lyrics that introduce the book set the stage for the ominous tale—
“And I think I’m gonna drown, I believe I’m gonna drown, I think I’m gonna drown, standing on my feet.”
With beautifully “musical” writing, a flair for the macabre and characters that are both easy to relate to and realistic, Jonathan Maberry has shown us a hell of a good time that is truly “delightfully gruesome.”