‘Holy Ghost Road’ by John Mantooth – Book Review

Less horror and more cat and mouse chase thriller

Holy Ghost Road is less horror and more cat and mouse chase thriller, haunted by pacing problems. It’s a tale that could have been much better than the sum of its parts and ends up getting stuck in somewhat of a repetitive rut. While the latter chapters do go some way to remedy that, with a quicker pace and some exciting set pieces, the journey there does require a good deal of patience.

The story centers on Forest, a girl who stumbles upon a deep, dark secret. Something that immediately puts her in danger. She stumbles upon Pastor Nesmith praying to a demon inside her family’s barn. When she’s spotted, Forest knows she has to run away. Her safe haven happens to be her Granny’s house, given she could have the magic needed to hold off Nesmith, who’s in quick pursuit with his cronies – and the demon itself.

With no car, friends or phone, Forest’s journey is a perilous one and as she sets off, Forest soon realizes that there are other horrors out in the world, ones that could be worse than the monstrous demon after her.

While the narrative has a few neat twists and turns, including a particularly stomach-churning game of Truth or Dare on a boat midway through, the story regularly gets stuck spinning its wheels, repeating the same “run, hide, get ready, run” motif numerous times as the story heads toward its ultimate conclusion.

Where Holy Ghost Road does well though is with its characterization for Forest. Seeing the world through her eyes is certainly a welcome inclusion and it helps that the dialogue and descriptions accompany her world view, with plenty of colloquialisms and specific language you can really see this teen using.

You can tell that this story has a lot of folk horror and southern Gothic influences too, and there are a few occasions that feel reminiscent of horrors like Jeepers Creepers (the first one, not the terrible sequences), especially for the chase elements.

But these chase sequences soon run out of stamina and you may find your initial excitement quelling to finger-tapping impatience. The book does manage pull off a pretty decent conclusion, but in order to reach that point the middle chapters sag under the weight of mediocrity. Holy Ghost Road isn’t a bad read and you can see glimmers of greatness in this. Unfortunately, it ends up feeling more mediocre than it perhaps should, especially as the story shows so much promise.

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  • Verdict - 5.5/10

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