Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Scarecrows by Christine Hayton - a review

ScarecrowsScarecrows by Christine Hayton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer first: I have received an advance copy from Ms. Hayton as a gift. A review was neither stipulated nor requested. I occasionally interact with the author on Goodreads as we both belong to the same group, and came to know her through her reviewing some of my work, which she purchased on her own.

A second disclaimer: I'm a paper book kind of a guy, and have resisted the ebook format for years, rejecting every ebook offer that came my way. Recently, however, I bought a tablet/laptop thingy, and had a six-hour flight ahead of me. A novella seemed like a good way to test the Kindle app and my patience with ebooks.

I read this novella in one sitting, taking two coffee breaks along the way. Scarecrows is definitely not my usual read, but both the writing and the story kept me interested and engaged. The short novella packs a solid plot, and the writing is never boring. The use of tense shifts within the opening paragraphs of each chapter was an effective way to provide just enough background information to characters and events, without taking the reader down memory lane in separate chapters in order to explain the current events. It was an interesting technique, one I do not encounter often.

The novella is hard to characterize, as it plays on several planes. In a sense, it is a 'traditional horror', that is, one without the gore and explicit violence one finds in contemporary offerings. Yet, at the same time, it is a murder mystery, and a psychological exploration of two different individuals. One, a child confined to a mental institution; the other, an adult with brain trauma. Their 'illness' is completely different, yet related on multiple levels. I thought that was quite clever.

The plot was plausible, the police procedures reasonable, and the depictions of a mental health facility believable. Interactions among characters were well written, and added to the plot as it thickened. A well edited and formatted, this was an enjoyable read. I'm glad I gave it a chance.

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