Skillute is one of those towns that has quickly become one to remember in horror fiction. It’s creeping like a tainted tide, inspired by Oxrun Station from Charlie Grant and Cedar Hill from Gary Braunbeck. The land has been poisoned, seeping into the soil of a town that should be long forgotten, but things that refuse to die grasp hold of the frayed threads of reality in this Pacific Northwestern hell. Good people still reside there, and S.P. Miskowski has made them pawns in her playground, a setting that never can shed the shadows which infect everything that breathes within.
Miskowski’s novels build upon one another, not unlike the aforementioned towns, or like Castle Rock, but she tackles this in a different manner. The stories bleed into each other, dripping that dark, damp atmosphere from the last page of The Worst is Yet to Come (a stellar offering) straight onto the first page of The Best of Both Worlds.
Whereas the former novel began with the promise of good people, Roland and Pigeon (given name Ava) never had a chance to dance in the sunlight and thrive like other kids. An abusive father sullied their childhood with actions no young one should ever have to experience. Pigeon’s mother believed herself to hold a power to speak to the dead. Roland has longed for that gene to be passed to her. However, the power has eluded her, supposedly due to her mother marrying the sleaze in a flesh bag that helped spawn her. He plans his dark deeds while working as a janitor in a local school, his sister cooking for the students. The siblings are deliciously off, leaving readers to ponder the nature versus nurture motif while generating empathy where it really shouldn’t be.
The tendrils of the town burrow into just about everyone, including the pair of girls Roland begins to watch walking through the streets. He begins to obsess about them, sensing something, a kinship or just a portent of something momentous to occur.
For those familiar with The Worst is yet to Come, a special young lady returns in grand fashion that weaves another shadowy layer into a story already six feet deep. Another recommended read by the very talented S.P. Miskowski. If you haven’t read her yet, feel free to start here or with any of the Skillute stories.