Review: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

cover of Suburban HellSuburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer
G.P. Putnam Sons (August 2022) 
336 pages; $15.30; $11.99 ebook
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

What’s a little demonic exorcism among friends?

Things are pretty good in a small Chicago suburb. The kids play together, parents help one another watch the kids, and the neighbors constantly hold potlucks and holiday cookouts.

Four friends, Amy, Liz, Jess, and Melissa, hold wine nights to break away from the pretentious PTA crowd and their long stories of kitchen renovations. Liz, the softie of the group, and the most “together” hostess, suggests the crew build a “She Shed.” Ever the go-getter, Liz begins construction immediately, and the women “christen” the site with pinot and chardonnay, unknowingly disturbing a restless entity.

And then the nightmare ensues.

Liz, the once sweet and collected girl gang member, becomes distant and more daring. Not to mention the horrid smell coming from her backyard.

While the revelation that their friend is possessed is quite terrifying, Amy and her friends undergo hilarious and certainly questionable circumstances to save their friend. In the same comedic cleverness as Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, alongside a strong dose of scares, Kilmer achieves an unputdownable thrilling horror-comedy where the sanctuary of a cul-de-sac becomes a demon’s playground.

Kilmer conjured a remarkable cast of relatable, hilarious, and quirky women. And it is their friendship, despite their differences — such as Melissa’s evangelistic background squandering her initial ability to believe a demon has possessed Liz — that makes Suburban Hell such a standout read.

I’d certainly say Amy’s loyalty to Liz, even after things become violent for her and her children, rivals the unbreakable bond between Abby and Gretchen in My Best Friend’s Exorcism. 

And speaking of children, Amy’s daughter, who befriends one of the loose spirits, elevates Suburban Hell’s spooky moments to the likes of Poltergeist and Amityville. Dismembered Barbies and a murderous American Girl doll…dare I say more?

My only wish for this read was for Kilmer to hold readers in some of the scarier moments a bit longer. Some felt too formulaic and deserved more page time.  Otherwise, Suburban Hell quickly climbed my list of favorite reads from 2022.

If you’re a fan of Grady Hendrix or Rachel Harrison, this one’s for you.

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