‘The Beast of Bradley Downs,’ by Stephanie Douglas

It all started in her hometown.

A small town, the type of town these things happen in. These things never happen in the big city. Too many places to run to. Too many places to hide.

It starts with parents trying to scare their children, get them inside before the sun completely sets. How long had that legend been part of the town? The parents didn’t even know. No one knew where the stories actually came from in the end.

Bradley Downs was the town …

When it comes to dark fiction, Stephanie Douglas is a woman after my own heart.

From Summoned to Fright Club, Stephanie has her finger on the pulse of all things dark n’ creepy. I’d been meaning to read The Beast of Bradley Downs for a couple of years now, but I didn’t get the chance until last week, when I was recuperating from an injury.

Wow …

Just … fuckin’ wow, man!!!

I’ve always said that the best horror starts out on a deceptively normal note. Yes, you can begin a horror story in a cemetery, in the middle of the night. Those stories are often quite entertaining. But the absolute best horror opens with a ‘normal’ setting, and then slowly ramps up the tension. (See also It, my favorite horror novel.)

‘Normal’ is exactly how The Beast of Bradley Downs starts out. Karoline is a loveable high-school student, with a penchant for ‘goth’ clothing and heavy metal music. (Talk about a reason for me to love a character, now!) She’s dealing with nothing more than the usual teenage issues: school, budding love …

Then people start dying all around her.

It’s funny, even when people start dying, this book doesn’t feel like ‘horror’ quite yet. It reads almost like a mystery, or a true-crime thriller. Looking back, I honestly can’t say when the story crosses the line into outright horror. The transition is very, very subtle. All I can say is this: at the beginning of the story, Karoline is a normal teenage girl, living in a charming small town. And at the end, she’s a tormented soul, living in a waking nightmare. The two extremes intersect somewhere in the middle of the tale, but it’s difficult to say exactly where.

What makes this story so horrific is the absolute, utter inescapability of the monster. There’s no peace, no sanctuary for young Karoline. The Beast could be anywhere, and it will find her; her only choice is to run, run, and run some more. (I’m reminded of the nightmarish film Truth or Dare, starring Lucy Hale. The demon is always following …) 

The ending was fantastic, which is oh so important in horror! You can write the best story in the world, but if you falter at the finish … well, you blew it. Stephanie Douglas did not blow it! The only thing I’ll say about the ending is this, lest I accidentally drop a spoiler: there is still an air of mystery after you turn the last page. Some horror novels end like a ‘whodunit’, in which the last few pages answer every single question that the reader might have. Other horror endings leave a few lingering, unanswered questions, like the stories in Ray Bradbury’s iconic The October Country.

The Beast of Bradley Downs has a ‘Bradbury ending.’ This book ain’t a ‘whodunit’, it’s HORROR!

I cannot possibly recommend this book highly enough. It’s tense, exciting, frightening, with vividly-drawn and relatable characters.

So check it out!!! – V

TO CHECK OUT MORE OF STEPHANIE’S HORROR WRITING (INCLUDING AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW) CLICK HERE: https://virginiawallace.com/2022/01/14/fright-club-a-review-and-author-interview/

TO STALK STEPHANIE (AND ORDER HER BOOKS) CLICK HERE: https://linktr.ee/sdouglasauthor

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