Wildwood Road brings a new twist to horror standards. Review by Violet Kane

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Christopher Golden brings intrigue to old-fashioned horror by complementing the unknown with the eerily familiar.

The opening of this novel finds hero Mike Dansky at a Halloween masquerade ball with his wife Jillian. An evening of dancing, drinking and small talk with local power-players leaves the couple optimistic about Jillian's potential bid for a city council position—but also more drunk than they expected to be. With Jillian asleep in the backseat, Mike struggles to keep awake on the ride hom, and to remember exactly how many beers he had. When a little girl appears in his headlights, Mike swerves. He misses the girl, but is left with the dilemma of how to help the lost child. He rules out taking her to the police for fear of his blood-alcohol level affecting Jillian's chances for office. Not wanting to abandon the girl, he decides to drive her home. She directs him, however, to a darkened old house up at the end of Wildwood Road. After the girl disappears into the house, Mike follows, but finds only empty rooms and curious smells: hot chocolate, popcorn, candy apples... Blaming it on the beer, Mike leaves, resolving to return and figure out what happened, heeding the girl's last words to him: "Come find me." His continued efforts to piece together the puzzle of that night, however, lead to unintended consequences, including a disastrous change in mood from his wife—a turn toward madness that endangers both her bid for city council and their marriage.

At first glance, readers may assume they have this book figured out. Haunted houses and ghosts, right? This book is not what it first appears, and our first clue is the strangely comforting smells that continue to haunt Mike. One of the highlights of this book is its exploration of the theme of memory. Golden builds his two main characters in large part from their recollections of the happiness in their past, a useful contrast to their crumbling marriage in the present. The use of imagery, especially that of smell, permeates this book evoking reader memories of comfort, while otherwise painting a scene of uneasiness. This is not the typical horror story of things that go bump in the night, but rather the horrific potential in those things most familiar to us—the potential to lose them.

Horror readers will enjoy this novel both for its old-standards done well, and for the novelty of its exploration of the horror in mind and memory.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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