This new thriller by Mark Edwards takes place at an indoor summer resort in the state of Maine. He takes advantage of Maine’s reputation as remote, dotted with lakes and covered with deep forests to create a bit of a different worldly atmosphere. He also does not miss the financial difficulties and spotty wi-fi reception of the state’s rural areas.
To barely employed British music journalist Tom Anderson, who recounts many of the chapters in first person, the idea of a holiday swimming and hiking with his 14-year-old daughter Frankie sounded ideal from across the Atlantic. Since his divorce, she has been living in Albany, New York, with her mother, and Tom’s time with her is precious and rare.
The resort is in the midst of a grand reopening when Tom and Frankie arrive, but what the owners and the smart brochures and website do not reveal is that Hollow Falls 20 years before was the site of a gruesome double murder. Two teachers chasing a group of middle school students were murdered, their naked bodies were shown on a large flat rock in a deforestation, pagan symbols flooded with blood around them. The teachers were married, but not to each other, and had led a secret affair. Everyone suspected ‘the local weirdo’ of the crime, a goth and black-metal music obsessed teenager named Everett Miller. But he disappeared, and whether he fled south to New Hampshire or north to Canada, he was never seen again.
Their suitcases are not out of the rental car until Tom begins meeting the family from the next door cabin, David and Connie Butler, and their dreamy teenage son, Ryan. Connie is an expert on serial killers and true criminal stories and produces a popular podcast on the subject. They reveal that many of Hollows guests that weekend are there for the anniversary. For Tom, this is an eerie footage, and Butler’s delight in the details of the murders is more than a little strange.
Still, he’s glad Frankie and Ryan turn it off, and soon they set out to explore the campground together. They even venture several miles away to the nearest town, Penance, in search of an internet connection. There they meet an eerie boy and girl – twins – around their own age with unhealthy pale skin. Like teenage vampires, Frankie thinks. The twins tease Frankie and Ryan about ghosts. This is not the only rumor floating on the breeze in the caves. Some people seem to think that Everett Miller never really went and has been hiding in the woods all these years.
No wi-fi, no interesting shops. Ryan decides that the town is a bust, and when the couple registers an internet signal at the back of the resort’s main building, he goes online with his pictures of Penance’s scrap yard, homeless man and a diatribe towards the crazy town.
This seems to trigger the initiation of a series of strange events. A carved white rabbit – similar to the one Frankie has at home – is found in the cabin in front. Tom thinks he sees someone looking at him, but the face has gone too fast, leaving an impression that is not human. Frankie is followed in the woods. After several of these events and vague warnings from people around them about leaving the caves, Tom argues with himself about their significance. In the long tradition of horror fiction, he chooses to ignore the escalating threat. He and Frankie stay.
Of course, if Tom had packed the car and driven back to Albany in the beginning, there would be no story, but his constant soul-searching in ‘I had no choice’ vein, when he clearly had choices and made bad, became tiring. If you can overlook it and do not mind the rather predictable plot, you may find the oddball characters engaging enough to keep turning pages. Mark Edwards has many books and many fans, though The Hollows is not one of his best.
See also Final Girls by Riley Sager.
Thomas & Mercer
Print / Kindle / iBook
CFL rating: 3 stars