If you enjoy keeping up with all the new releases in horror, then no doubt you heard about 2018’s The Nightmare Room by Chris Sorensen. Book #1 of the Messy Man series received a warm welcome from the horror industry with glowing reviews across the board from multiple sources, including me! I loved The Nightmare Room. having this to say about it:
…a really well written haunted house story that’s easy to follow and scary enough to leave the light on or read during the day. I loved it! This is a must have for your horror collection.
For me, part of the excitement of picking up The Nightmare Room was knowing that it was the first book in a series. I love the idea of a good horror series that spans over several books. It’s fun to anticipate a return to a storyline I enjoyed or revisit characters to see what will happen to them next.
Book #2, The Hungry Ones, continues the Messy Man series. This is where I’m going to make the recommendation that readers must read The Nightmare Room first, as I don’t believe that The Hungry Ones makes for a standalone novel. There is so much crossover from the first book with little to no flashbacks or anything to help refresh a reader’s memory. I made the mistake of just jumping right in having not read Book #1 in about a year. Also, this book spoils some pretty big reveals from The Nightmare Room.
The first part of the book introduces some new characters and starts telling the story of a woman named Jessie Voss.
Jessie, with the help of a lively and hilarious friend named Steph, invests some money in an abandoned roadside motel that has seen better days and was the location of a brutal act of violence. I have a real affinity for “fixer-upper” stories. I love reading stories about people renovating a neglected farmhouse or giving a new lease on life to a dilapidated business, so this part of the book, where Jessie is painting, cleaning and restoring this old motel, was a huge hook for me. There are several teasers of something residing at the motel, maybe even suggesting that the motel is haunted, but Jessie is the kind of girl that isn’t easily rattled.
A few characters show up while Jessie is preparing for her grand opening. I didn’t immediately catch on that some of the characters who ask to rent a room from Jessie are from the first book—this made for some missed opportunities for me early on and later, when I finally figured it out, I actually had to go back to re-read from when they first make an appearance and then catch up again to where I left off. So again, I will highlight the importance of reading The Nightmare Room.
Towards the middle of the book, I found that I was questioning myself quite often. Wondering if I was forgetting some important details from Book #1 because, as I continued reading, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I was missing something. I was a little confused and disoriented. There were these isolated chapters written in italics that interrupted the flow of the present day drama unfolding and each time I read through one of those chapters, I would feel more confused.
There was also a storyline about these strange phone calls that would come in on a landline and the characters would have these odd, choppy conversations with the person on the other line. Every time this would happen I felt like maybe this was a clue or something from the original plotline that I missed. But apart from some clunkiness due to my forgetfulness, I had an awesome time at the Crossroads Motel. Chris Sorensen’s wheelhouse is writing authentic, realistic encounters with the paranormal. The Hungry Ones is full of unsettling scenes with people in real life coming face-to-face with unexplained phenomena. The careful, descriptive details are what make these scenes so chilling and engaging.
I absolutely love Sorensen’s narrative style. So even though I found book two to be difficult to navigate and I had trouble finding my footing, all of the things that make Sorensen a great writer kept me turning the pages until the end. I’m excited to read book three, The Messy Man, which was advertised in the back of the book. More Whisper and more Mr. Tell. Yes!