Review: Below by Laurel Hightower

cover of BelowBelow by Laurel Hightower
Ghoulish Books (March 2022)
115 pages; $12.95 Paperback; $4.99 ebook
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

I dug the hell out of Laurel Hightower’s previous book, Crossroads. It had that heart I am always looking for, a fair amount of “messeded up,” and an attitude that took zero percent of my guff. So, of course, when I found out that she had a new one coming out, and that it involved Mothman, I was down as a clown in D-town.

The back page material makes it look like the story is primarily about our protagonist and her struggles to decide whether to put herself or a complete stranger first. Yeah, that is a part of the story, but this is really more of a story of her struggle with her own fears and her ability to trust herself…while contending with falling elbow-deep into someone else’s innards, getting assaulted by skeletal cannibal monstrosities that sometimes resemble her ex a bit too much, and that thing in the water. That inky, too warm, eternally night-bound water. Oh yeah, and Mothman, too.

What holds this story together is Laurel’s grasp of character. We spend the entirety of the book inside the Addy’s head. You have to craft a heck of a character for that to work and Laurel Hightower can craft a heck of a character. Addy is driven, but still has her own fragilities, as we all do. She is so bound up in the assistance and insistence that others have imposed on her that it is often hard for even her to tell for certain whether or not what she is experiencing is real. It was a hell of a ride, going on this journey with her.

Please don’t think this is a light, fun ride, though. Below is a far cry from the quiet horrors of Crossroads, even being as introspective as it is. Things get dark, both literally and figuratively, and they get damn bloody. Below makes it clear that Laurel could go head to head with any of the heavyweights of hardcore and splatter, and likely knock a few of them off their feet.

If you are looking for horror that is as emotionally and intellectually engaging as it is visceral, you need to get on down Below.

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