Grim Harvest by Patrick Greene
Lyrical Underground (September 2019)
197 pages; $7.85 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
Grim Harvest by Patrick C. Greene is the second novel of “The Haunted Hollow Chronicles,” a planned series centering on Ember Hollow, an isolated community in the American heartland where cell phones and the internet simply don’t work. When, at the annual Halloween Harvest, events take a nasty supernatural turn, they have only themselves to count on.
And that may not be enough.
To start with, I have to admit that werewolves on motorcycles in a gang named the Fireheads is an enticing (and gratifyingly gory) way to begin a novel. With ripped throats and splayed guts, we are introduced to Nico and his gang, one of the novel’s primary antagonists. They want revenge.
Now throw in witchcraft, children with knives, psychedelic mushrooms, a priest in peril, innocent bystanders, dedicated cops, and a local punk band called The Chalk Outlines, and you have a recipe for a Halloween bloodfest. Most of the inhabitants of Ember Hollow simply wanted a peaceful harvest festival (complete with parade) but, horrifyingly, they’re not going to get it.
Grim Harvest is easily an independent read, but this reviewer feels it would be best to devour the previous volume, Red Harvest, first. Many of the plots and sub-plots are a natural extension of what happened the year before in Ember Hollow, and knowing the history of those events would place many of the characters and situations in perspective. Mr. Greene provides a reasonable recap of those events as they are needed, but—let’s just say it’s complicated.
Grim Harvest casts a wide storytelling net. There are numerous characters, perhaps too many for some readers. Not all of the subplots are needed and the density of the story sometimes sidetracks the narrative and diminishes the emotional roller-coaster needed in horror tales. The use of the literary equivalent of the filmic “jump cut” is occasionally jarring. For me, I wanted to continue the primary thread through the story but often was forced down another path which didn’t resonate with me and ultimately wasn’t necessary for the resolution.
But that’s me.
On the flip side, if you want to settle down by the fireplace on dark winter’s night with an entertaining and complex story that requires you pay attention to who-did-what-to-who-when, then I encourage you to read both volumes of this series. Grim Harvest is a splatterfest and you will certainly find heroes to root for and villains to fear.
Mr. Greene’s writing is modern, hip, and playfully grotesque. He does not flinch from describing some unthinkable things (yet he thought of them) and where a pint of blood might suffice for some authors, he provides a gallon. Or two. Or three.
In summary, I hope my car never breaks down in Ember Hollow.
Especially around Halloween.