Hardcover: 234 pages
Publisher: By Light Unseen Media (May 15, 2011)
When a mutilated body is found in the woods near the central Massachusetts town of Grantham, Scott Dugan comes home for the first time in more than twenty years. He returns to the decaying house where he’d grown up, one of many derelict homes in the long-abandoned neighborhood of Applewood.
More than two decades earlier, Dugan and his tightly bonded group of friends had been struggling with the same pains that plagued millions of teens like them–bullies in school, broken families, money problems, relationships. But the evil that revives to spread through Grantham confronts them with a far darker and more destructive adversary. In 1861, Grantham sent its own home town war hero, Colonel Alexander Pope, and a company of locals to fight for the Union cause in the Civil War. Marching through the isolated rural regions of Georgia, the Colonel and his soldiers discovered a horrible secret hidden behind the lovely facades of the plantation mansions. When the veterans of Grantham came home, they brought something else with them.
Now that something else has awakened once more to grow and feed, Dugan and his friends are among the few who realize what’s happening to their town. They band together to ferret out information about the history of the Colonel and to fight the threat. But victory, if it’s even possible, will come at a terrible cost. Some, like Dugan, will never be the same.
I received a copy of Applewood by Brendan P. Myers from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been acquainted with Inanna Arthen, the Editor-in-Chief of By Light Unseen Media, for several years. We met through our mutual love of vampire lore, so when I mentioned I had started a book blog, Inanna asked if I would be interested in reviewing any of BLUM’s titles. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity!
Applewood opens with a body on the ground. When the local police sergeant recognizes the killer’s M.O., he summons his friend and the novel’s central character, Scott Dugan, back to Grantham, Massachusetts and Dugan’s childhood home in the abandoned subdivision of Applewood. I loved how quickly I was dropped into the action and Myers uses great foreshadowing to build tension from the first page. Based on the first two chapters, I was expecting a fast-paced thriller.
However, the majority of the story is told in flashback and through entries in a Civil War soldier’s journal. Applewood is divided into four sections. In Section One, the audience is taken on a stroll through Scott Dugan’s ninth-grade year, where we’re introduced to his friends, his alcoholic father, his uncle, his girlfriend, several school bullies and an array of minor characters. I confess, there were times when I needed a cast list to keep track of who was who.
The high point of the first section is the disappearance of the three school bullies. Unfortunately, Myers attempts to weave this scene together with another scene involving Dugan, which is happening simultaneously in another part of town. The result is a lot of confusion that could have been avoided, either by focusing on one event at a time, or by cutting Dugan’s scene altogether.
As the story progresses, the number of missing people grows until Grantham is all but deserted. Dugan and his friends investigate local history as they search for a way to cleanse the town of the friends and neighbors who have joined the ranks of the undead. Myers regains his stride in Section Two and, from there, Applewood is a quick and easy read. Throughout the story, Dugan experiences intermittent flashes of deja vu or clairvoyance, which are never fully explained, but become central to Applewood’s climax. Myers ramps up the tension as he drives the plot toward the finale.
By the time I got to Section Four, I didn’t want to put the book down, and ended up reading until the wee hours of the morning just to finish. The ending wasn’t what I expected and provides a nice set-up for a sequel if Myers decides to continue this storyline. I don’t normally enjoy horror novels, but Applewood has just the right amount of delicious creepiness without being over-the-top gory. It’s well worth reading.
From Dracula and Varney the Vampire in the Victorian era to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and the Twilight Saga, the king of the undead continues to mesmerize and entice audiences. Brendan P. Myers carries on this tradition with Applewood. However, if you’re expecting suave, seductive vampires or angsty, brooding vampires, you’ll be disappointed. Without question, Myers’ vampires are monsters.
Best of all, they don’t sparkle.