Review: The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie

cover of The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie, showing an upside-down photo of trees against a cloudy skyThe Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie
Redhook (November 17, 2020)

384 pages; $16.99 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

A group of adults shares the same dark secret. When they were children, they grew up at the foot of a mountain called Red Peak. Isolated from the rest of the world, the children lived through the traumatic experience of life in a cult. Years later, a fellow survivor and friend, takes their own life. The grownup children of Red Peak reunite and re-open old wounds.

What really happened on that last night at Red Peak? Our protagonists, the survivors, must bring to the surface all the painful memories they buried and maybe even take a trip back to where it all happened.

This story follows two timelines, the present-day narrative and the one back at Red Peak. I actually love books with a lot of flashbacks. Sometimes I find that the story in the past is more intriguing than the one in the present, and such is the case here. But this might be because I love young adult or child protagonists and coming-of-age drama. It also might be because I didn’t much care for the adult characters; they were way more interesting as children. Not to mention, I love cult horror and all the scenes at Red Peak were just so damn compelling.

DiLouie did an excellent job building the inner workings of the cult practices and beliefs. In order for me to buy into a story where cult followers are willing to exhibit some really strange behaviors, I have to believe the psychology and spirituality of the cult/cult leader. It takes a little bit of time for Craig DiLouie to set this  up, but once one of the characters does some hypnotherapy to unlock repressed memories, the cult storyline ramps up, and I was able to fully invest in this character-driven thriller/mystery.

Perhaps my only complaint would be that the first half of the story is so drastically different than the last half of the book in terms of pacing. I think some readers might tap out before all the amazing twists and turns play out. Perhaps I can use this review to urge readers to just allow DiLouie to stretch and grow his characters and push them towards the self-actualization and discovery they need in order for the story to progress. Also, take note of the chapter headings — this book reads like a very well-designed journey towards closure and healing, so it’s important for readers to be compliant in the process because, near the end, it was truly a cathartic experience.

DiLouie brings something totally original to the cult-horror trope that I don’t think existed before. I’m a believer.

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