Schrader’s Chord by Scott Leeds
Tor Nightfire (September 5, 2023)
448 pages; $28.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Horror novels revolving around music almost never fails to excite. Two primal entities tap into humanity’s inner core, often bypassing most emotional defenses, leaving the reader or listener bare to the effects of the intended message. When combining both, the effect can be powerful.
The publisher touts this novels as a combination between Heart-Shaped Box and The Haunting of Hill House. It definitely hold elements of each, but Schrader’s Chord is its own beast and should be enjoyed as its own creation. To this reviewer’s ears, this novel is the literary equivalent of a great rock album.
Charlie Remick is the man with the golden ear. He’s a success story as he has the ability to sign the biggest and best upcoming bands. Yet, on the eve of an important show, he receives a text from his sister that his father is dead. Raymond Remick owns a music store that’s barely hanging on, but none of that matters much when he’s found hanging from the tree behind their home.
He leaves them a pair of seemingly useless items in his will: the store and a quartet of vinyl records in a suitcase.
They discover the legend that states if the records are played, a doorway opens to the land of the dead. What did Schrader know and what did he create?
When Charlie, the workers at the store, Ana and Dale, and his sister Ellie, play the discs, their reality shifts into a nightmare of epic horrors. The dead are seen everywhere, especially ones they know; mainly, Charlie’s father, who just might be able to help save them. Schrader himself seeks something that will damn all of them, unless they can reverse the evil they helped bring into the world.
An epic road trip ensues to Schrader’s grave, yet if they fail to turn back the curse, the door might remain open forever.
While it might take some time to determine if the comparisons are apt or not, there’s one thing that’s clear: Leeds has written one hell of an entertaining novel. There’s not a wasted character or moment between the covers. Everything adds to this dark song, layering the light and shadow in this examination of family and music.
Highly addictive, this novel just might break out — and should.