book review, horror, Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale Month: Orifice

When the cover proclaims this is Sale’s most sickening story yet, you know you’re in for a good time.

When a flood full of dead animals makes the motorway impassable, couple Jenny and Marc, and siblings Elijah and Eleanor, have no choice but to spend the night in Pitwell village, nestled in the woods. Staying at a B&B run by sweet widow, Mrs Cross, the newcomers meet enigmatic hunter, Salter.

Naturally enough, something is terribly wrong with quaint Pitwell, and as the new day dawns and the four travelers find they are still trapped, the villagers start to reveal their true nature.

I think this book would make a great movie. It contains all the beats of a well made horror.

There’s enough flesh on the character’s bones to make them more fully realized compared to most horror movies, but for a Sale book they’re like paper dolls. Hints at a dark reason for Jenny’s anger issues are never mfully explored. The mysterious Salter is left mysterious, and Eleanor’s experiences linked to her creative soul are underdeveloped.

The creepy terror of the first half of the novella gives way to the enthusiastic blood and gore of the climax. The classic horror tropes on show are entertaining, even if no new ground is trod.

Unfortunately, the novella at times reads as if it’s been pared down so close to the bone that limbs have been chopped off, leaving gaping holes. Much is made of the road to Pitwell being blocked, and then it suddenly is clear. Many of Eleanor’s actions are irritatingly stupid. Random paragraphs hang without reference to what has gone before, and the ending has a dream like quality that makes me wonder if the whole story is one of Jenny’s nightmares.

The entire book has the cloying, pervasive feeling of a nightmare, which I enjoyed. The pace is fast, and it delivers a lot in a short volume.

I award Orifice

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