Witch 13 by Patrick Delaney
Oblivion Publishing (June 7, 2022)
358 pages; $28.99; $17.99 paperback; $3.99
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Award-winning author Patrick Delaney grew up in varying cities in the greater Los Angeles County, where he attended Canyon High School. Throughout his childhood he pursued various forms of art, from writing short stories to drawing and modeling. Throughout his undergraduate career he gradually polished his debut novel Dante’s Town of Terror, which would go on to win the gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards(IPPY) in the horror category for 2018. His most recent novel is Witch 13.
The night before her resignation and half a month before Christmas, Sheriff Sterling Marsh faces a dreary life in Connecticut. Suddenly, reports of odd events begin coming into the office, and when Marsh investigates, she finds the common element is a mysterious creature dressed like a witch. Not some new-age, wicca witch gone horribly astray after one too many bad mushrooms, but a classic fairy tale witch: black hat, sinister laugh, black clothing, etc. The further that Sheriff Marsh investigates, the more she’s convinced that something otherworldly is at play, especially when the town gets isolated from the outside world due to a sudden and unnatural storm.
Witch 13 is an interesting concept of a novel. Delaney takes a classic trope, the aged cop facing one last battle before riding off into the sunset, and flips it on its head with a horrific twist. All the elements of a classic mystery are there, from the burnt-out police officer whose led a life of regrets and poor decisions, to the small town elements and familiar locals, only Delaney subverts reader expectations thoroughly by introducing a witch straight out of folkloric nightmares and tearing everything down.
What makes the novel even more interesting are the illustrations that accompany the chapters. They’re chalklike, possibly charcoal like, but add an atmospheric and ethereal element to the story that really works to build reader anticipation.
The novel is a slow burn, which works well, because it gives Delaney time to develop not just the horror and suspense, but the locale as well. There are times when the novel seems to jump from point to point a bit too much, especially in the early chapters, which almost seem like micro short stories about unique individuals in the small Connecticut town, but if readers give Delaney time to craft his story, their patience is well rewarded and all the threads will weave together into a scary story.
Overall, Witch 13 is a really dark and suspenseful novel that taps into some classic horrors. Delaney takes his time focusing on Sheriff Marsh and her struggles in figuring out this dark, otherworldly mystery, and while the pacing might be a bit slow for some readers, most horror fans will enjoy the way Delaney builds his world, only to tear it down with his witch figure. Horror fans, especially fans of folkloric horror, will really enjoy this novel .