You might think that constructing a homage to The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is attempting to fill some fairly large shoes. But author Jonathan Janz does so commendably well with his new novella from Samhain Publishing.
Coming in at a fairly lean 132 pages, Exorcist Road not only manages to set up the same structure as The Exorcist – insofar as a young priest teams with an older, more experienced one to determine whether a previously decent teenager has been possessed by some form of demon (there’s even a long fall to a set of stairs right outside the teenager’s window!) – but it also adds on a critical serial killer plotline, with at least one character believing the teenager is not possessed but is definitely The Sweet Sixteen Killer, a man who has been preying on 16 year olds throughout Chicago and doing so much more than just ending their lives. Then there’s questionable family dynamics, lies, accusations, and cheating all to contend with and making for a fairly dense read.
But not in terms of the writing. Presented as an after-the-fact psuedo-confession by the younger of the two priests assessing the teenager, Janz provides his usual lean and clean prose that is readily consumable – even if he does occasionally slip into allowing his priest to exercise the more rarely accessed elements of his verbal lexicon. Father Crowder is a flawed, yet likable enough lead character, and he is ably supported by a host of other interesting sorts. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably dislike those you’re clearly meant to dislike, connect with those who are obvious candidates for a humanitarian award, and sit on the fence regarding the one who may or may not be whom he at first appears to be.
In short, the nicest guy writing horror today (no, seriously, read his blog and listen to his interviews and tell me he’s anything but), has scored another field goal with this layered version of an exorcism for the current age. Janz provides a number of moments of genuine dread, even as his plot twists and turns combine for what amounts to being a wholly satisfying read.
Now, to get onto my long overdue read of Dust Devils …
4 Whispered Secrets Laid Bare for Exorcist Road.
Check out this review and others like it at Horror After Dark.
The preceding was based on a copy obtained through Netgalley, courtesy of the good folk at Samhain Publishing.