Well I’ve just finished reading Hex and I’m probably not going to sleep tonight. This is the international debut from Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt and it is probably the scariest book I’ve ever read.
From the blurb:
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.
This novel has been compared to early Stephen King novels and I can absolutely see why – Creepy religious elements, claustrophobic small town, escalating fears leading to paranoia and violent behaviour? Check, check, check.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because this book is a terrifying journey you have to make on you own, so without spoilers, here goes…
Black Spring is a small town in New York with a dark past that won’t go away. The people of Black Spring have a secret, well actually what they have is a witch. In the late 1600’s Kathryn Van Wyler was accused of being a witch and sentenced to death. The townfolk wrapped her in chains and then dumped Kathryn’s body into a pond in the woods and carried on with their lives, until Kathryn turned up again and the whole town disappeared.
When new settlers entered the area they found that they couldn’t leave, or terrible things would happen to them. To try and contain the witch’s power they sewed her eyes and mouth shut. Eurgh.
Now 3 centuries later the people of Black Spring have an uneasy truce with the witch; she wanders around town, sometimes standing in the same spot for days at a time, always whispering around the stitches in her mouth. It is said that if anyone listens to her they will commit suicide.
The people hide her presence from outsiders with the help of a secret police type outfit known as The Point and a local team called HEX. The whole town is monitored by cameras and they have their own Internet service, which is censored to stop any evidence of the witch from going public. The town’s main agenda is to cover up what is going on.
The teens of Black Spring are not happy that they have to live out their lives in this small town. They can never travel or pursue their dreams. Seventeen-year-old Tyler Grant has a popular YouTube channel and has a plan film and broadcast images of Kathryn to make the world aware of the Black Rock Witch, so that the town will be free. Yes, nothing is going to go wrong with that plan.
The book starts out relatively slowly, if a bit strangely, with the locals being quite complacent about the 300 year old corpse hanging out in their front rooms. TOH steadily turns up the creepiness as you keep reading, so that without realising it you are in the middle of a bloody nightmare.
Also have you seen the trailer for the book? So scary.
I received my copy in exchange for an honest review, but the book is available in hardback from Hodder and Stoughton for £16.99.
I really hope that there are more English translations coming from this author.
Let me know your thoughts and reactions to the trailer in the comments*.
*Off to read something non-scary now…