Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

“Birmingham, Alabama is infested with malevolence. Prejudice and hatred have consumed the minds and hearts of its populace. A murderer, unimaginatively named “Harry the Hacker” by the press, has been carving up citizens with a hatchet. And from the church known as Chapelwood, an unholy gospel is being spread by a sect that worships dark gods from beyond the heavens.

This darkness calls to Lizzie Borden. It is reminiscent of an evil she had dared hoped was extinguished. The parishioners of Chapelwood plan to sacrifice a young woman to summon beings never meant to share reality with humanity. An apocalypse will follow in their wake which will scorch the earth of all life.

Unless she stops it…”

As much as I liked the previous book, Maplecroft, I have to say that I liked this one better.  It’s just as dark and atmospheric, but this one takes place deep in the earth as opposed to out in the wide open ocean.  Yes, Cthulu is still very much a presence here, but it seems weirdly more sinister for its corruption of a church.  And I liked seeing Lizzie as an older woman, no longer in her prime but still willing to wade into danger to save others.

There are some wonderfully creepy touches to this tale.  My favorite is storeroom six, a room where things inside of it slowly fade away.  Priest’s descriptions of this place are incredibly evocative–you can almost smell the must and dust, feel the strangeness of things gradually being forgotten.  I think what makes this image so powerful is that everyone has something like that in their house, even if it’s only a small junk drawer.  It’s that place for things that have no place, and if you go digging through it, you find the oddest things.

I also liked that Lizzie isn’t shoehorned into this story too much.  Yes, she’s there and she makes a difference, but the story ultimately belongs to others.  It feels like this novel is a natural outgrowth of the first one.  Decades have passed, and Lizzie’s time in the spotlight is over.  But that doesn’t mean that she’s obsolete, because she definitely has a few tricks left up her sleeve.

This is a story strong on atmosphere and a palpable sensation of dread.  With Halloween coming up, what better choice of reading material than something based on Lovecraft’s supreme being of horror?  Just make sure to leave a light on while reading Chapelwood, or you may find yourself jumping at shadows later.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&

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