#Horror Review: Clowders by Vanessa Morgan (@eeriestories)

Clowders is a book that reminded me a lot of vintage, small-town European horror from the likes of Herbert, Hutson, Clark, and Campbell. Vanessa Morgan weaves a creepy, suspenseful tale about urban legends and rural superstitions, with a plot that feeds on paranoia and fear. Moreover, while she does play cat-and-mouse with the mystery of what's really happening, she digs in the supernatural claws about halfway through, delivering a cold climax that's entirely fitting.

Clervaux, a small village in Luxembourg, is famous for its cats. We're not talking ugly, rabid strays, but healthy, well-fed cats who belong to whomever they choose. They are so well-tended, in fact, that their adopted humans flock to the veterinarian's office at the slightest sign of illness or injury, knowing that the village will reimburse any medical costs. As Aidan, Jess, and Eleonore discover (too late, sadly) there is no higher calling in Clervaux than saving the life of a cat.

Kill one, or merely allow one to die, and you will be one of the nine human lives taken in exchange.

Morgan wastes no time putting us on edge, with a first chapter that opens with a funeral, proceeds to talk about the cats, and ends with a young girl blowing her own brains out - in the car with her parents - rather than face feline retribution. In case you were tempted to think it's all a silly superstition or a tourism gimmick, that scene drives home the fact that these people BELIEVE.

This a book that's full of anticipation and dread. Clervaux is a beautiful little village, and the people seem very friendly (for the most part), but the cats are everywhere, there are sounds at night, and there is a persistent feeling of being watched. Even then, it's easy to dismiss events as superstitious coincidences, but the entire tone of the story changes after a half-drunk Jess runs over a cat one night, causing their village friends to flee the car in terror, and prompting the entire village to shun the family.

It is also at this point that Aidan begins to see past his own wishful thinking, past his affair with a beautiful woman, and starts to fear that his family's nightmare tales of seeing a massive, angry cat-lady stalking them in the dark might just be true. He's an interesting protagonist, largely a good man, but one with flaws. Seeing him succumb to temptation is unfortunate, but we do see him try to make amends. However, there is one decision he makes very late in the book that honestly shocked me, and changed what I wanted in a climax.

I will stop there, because I've said enough already, but Clowders is a fantastic bit of horror that refuses to shy away from its own legends, and never holds back on the consequences of felicide. It's tightly told, with just the right amount of backstory and local color to make the village come alive, and the psychological aspects carry well into the supernatural ones. I wasn't sure Morgan would follow through, but the ending was perfect.

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published 2018

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Comments

  1. I didn't doubt Vanessa would write a really compelling and twisted horror story.
    Like the new blog digs!

    ReplyDelete

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