Horror Book Review: Keeper at the Gates by Allison Church

Horror Book Review

Keeper at the Gates
Author: Allison Church
Publisher: Why Not??? Publications
Publication Date: April 26 2020
Genres: Horror
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

This is a book I deliberately sat on for about a month, knowing that I wanted to celebrate the first title under Allison Church's new name for Women in Horror Month. I've known her for years, and have always enjoyed her work, but Keeper at the Gates is something of a coming out and I wanted to honor that.

A short read but hardly a quick one - there's a lot of meaning and spirituality to unpack here - this is vintage supernatural horror. Father Donavon Pike is a young man of the church, someone who came to it through a lot of questioning, and who has little patience for those who only attend services to pay lip service and keep up appearances. He's neither a fire-and-brimstone preacher nor a heavy-handed moralist, but his brutal honesty tends to rub people the wrong way. In order to keep the peace, he's granted his own church to rebuild, with his own flock to nurture, and that's where the story really begins.

Pike's new home is a filthy, broken down shadow of a church. Even though this is a contemporary tale, his stumbling upon it in the dark has echoes of bedraggled characters slogging through the moors to arrive at a much older Gothic edifice. His welcome is hardly a warm one, and there are immediate hints that all is not right with the church. Mavis, the drunken old priest who watches over it, is so lax and so careless with his calling that he infuriates the younger man, and as much as the beautiful housekeeper, Anna, tempts him, there's a peculiarity to her, a sense of a woman out-of-place, that immediately puts us on our guard.

What follows is both a story of self-reflection and of a spiritual quest, a creepy tale that's more about unsettling twists and ominous turns than shock and gore. We know from the start that things are not right with the church, but the slow unveiling of what Pike has wandered into is beautifully done, especially with the biggest twists coming at the end. Anna, of course, is the pivotal character here, both in terms of plot and spirit, but to say much more would be to spoil things entirely.

Short enough to be enjoyed in a single sitting, but deep enough to leave you thinking about it for days afterward, Keeper at the Gates is a powerful piece of horror that more than delivers on its creepy, unsettling air of mystery and dread.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Ooh, ' - this is vintage supernatural horror' that sounds like a bit of me.
    Lynn :D


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