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Happy Book Birthday to DEVIL'S CREEK by Todd Keisling

Author: Todd Keisling
Publisher: Silver Shamrock
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Mother Horror Review:
I am fascinated by cults and cultish behavior. I watch a lot of documentaries about them, read true crime novels about infamous cult leaders and enjoy learning about the secret practices of cults. Naturally, Cult Horror is a favorite, fictional sub-genre but it can be hit or miss with me. I feel like a lot of authors want to spend time on the sensational aspects without doing the leg work developing the practical mechanics of a believable cult.
In order for me to buy in, I need a charismatic leader capable of convincing seemingly normal people to do outlandish acts of service.
Todd Keisling’s Devil’s Creek is the perfect example of quality cult horror. Let me unpack it for you, as always, I’ll be mindful of spoilers.
In the tradition of books like Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Keisling lays down important, historical groundwork for the setting of his epic cult tale.

Stauford, Kentucky is a fictional small town haunted by the legend Jacob Masters’ death cult, The Lord’s Church of Holy Voices. Keisling spends quality time peeling back the layers of this seemingly quaint town in order to reveal the dark, insidious roots below. Prepare to settle in with Devil’s Creek and enjoy the ride. This isn’t the kind of book that makes for casual or light reading. Todd Keisling sets early expectations for the rest of this book by the way he sets everything up in the beginning. He takes you back in time to 1983 so that when the reader arrives in the modern day narrative, you carry with you more truth than most of the townspeople have.
This is a sprawling story with a large cast of characters. In order to help readers identify important, generational players, Keisling graciously calls people by their first and last names. (Mother Horror Pro Tip: Pay attention to the last names and keep a mental note of the Stauford Six.)

Over the course of the novel, a few main protagonists emerge: Imogene Tremly and her grandson Jack are the ones I connected to emotionally. Keisling does an amazing job giving life and personality to the people on these pages. This helps the reader become invested in their motivations and purpose. I find this to be so important because Devil’s Creek deals with extremely dark subject matter. Plenty of potential triggers abound so proceed with caution if you’re a sensitive reader. Not to mention this is scary shit. I read a lot of horror; it takes a lot of originality for something to get under my skin in a unique or new way. This book got to me more than once. I’d say at least several times I felt the blood cool in my veins.

The book which is doled out in 5 parts, readers can expect to witness graphically detailed accounts of cult practices lead by a murderous, sexual deviant. Some of it is pretty difficult to stomach.

At no point in this novel did I feel as though I was enduring the depravity needlessly. Keisling’s story development is clearly given top priority. Suffering through explicit scenes felt necessary instead of exploitive or gratuitous. I trusted Keisling to bring me through the muck and the mire to get me to the other side and I was only too eager to get there. There is a compelling almost compulsive nature to this story where I felt as if I had to know how this was all going to end. It has to be said that calling this Keisling’s magnum opus is accurate. He takes a small, dark cult of maybe twenty to fifty people and blows it up into a full-blown cosmic horror novel over the span of four hundred pages or so; impressive as hell to say the least. I don’t believe any word was wasted, no detail was left out or ignored, and every character was given a reason to exist on the page. I never experienced a dull moment. Definitely will make my Best of 2020 list at the end of this year.
~Sadie Hartmann

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