Friday, July 13, 2018

Horror List Book Review: Ghost Road Blues

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

This week I'm reviewing Ghost Road Blues, by Jonathan Maberry.

This is the first book in the Pine Deep trilogy. Unfortunately, there's no real resolution of story in the first book, which is frustrating, because it leaves everything hanging. What I like to see in a trilogy or series is a resolution of a significant plot arc at the end of the book, with other plot lines unresolved for the next book(s).

Maberry creates characters you can really like and characters you can really hate. The evilness of the bad guys is significant, with no real redeeming features. This struck me, because I was recently on a panel where a psychologist who had worked in a mental health facility looked out at the audience and said something along the lines of, "I envy those of you who think that bad people are merely evil." They were less scary to me when all these awful people were just pure evil and tied to the main plot. There wasn't a gray area with them.

I liked the character of Crow, our main good guy. And Mike, a kid whose POV we see through. The women are lackluster characters (you can keep telling me Val is a super strong woman, but when she spends most of her time crying, freaking out, and being rescued, you've just disproven that.) Up until she was put under duress, I liked Val. Even after that, I was still rooting for her, but I got frustrated with the character at times. She's smart, she's loyal, she's determined, and she's strong and capable, but when Crow's around, she loses that. She exists to be rescued by men in the story.

Something that bothered me was that the main "monster" is hidden from us in this first book. The supernatural is brought into the story early enough, but the something more being hinted at (we don't know for certain what it is, though a blurb on the next book gave it away--whoops) feels like it's coming in way too late in the storyline. There should have at least been seeds planted earlier.

However, having said all that, Maberry can really paint a scene. I became deeply embroiled in the setting. The pacing is also good, and the setup such that I want to see it all resolved. While this wasn't my favorite book, it drew me in and I didn't hate-read it.

My Top Ten remains the same.

My Top Ten: 

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

The next book I review will be Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin.


  1. Jonathan is a member of the writing group I'm an officer in. Of course, he had to move to Hollywood where many of his publications are being developed into something or other. Ghost Road Blues was the first of his books I read, and I liked the series. Probably didn't love it, but he does create atmosphere in his books. He's also an amazing speaker if you ever have a chance to hear him.

    1. He was a speaker at conference this past year. The first one I haven't attended in 6 years. Sigh. I did hear he was an excellent speaker and an incredibly nice guy.

  2. Doesn't sound like one I'll be picking up.

    1. I read a short story of his I enjoyed, but most of the books on this list I'm doing are an author's first one. I'm planning on reading his later books.

  3. Coraline still blows my mind...what a story:)

  4. I agree with you in that Maberry can sure paint a scene. Maybe this just isn't his best book. Thanks for reviewing it for us.

    1. I think it is his first horror novel, so I'm betting ones that follow are better.

  5. Thanks for sharing your review. I've read a few books lately that I didn't even finish. I'm searching for a good horror.

    1. I recently enjoyed Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay that was excellent. Also The Bird Box by Josh Malerman.