Book Review: “The Wicked” by James Newman

The is another book I scored from the Library Thing’s “Read and Review Program.”

The Wicked had a lot of potential and started off great. A ‘town consumed by evil’ tale, it begins with a description of the tragedy that befell the Heller Home for Children in ’02 when an arsonist, Robert John Briggs, burned the place to the ground, killing all the children housed within. Briggs was found to be clearly insane and during his trial kept smiling and would scribble the word “Moloch,” or variations of this word, on his palms and other places. Despite the teen’s subsequent incarceration, the town of Morganville, North Carolina would never be the same again.

After this beginning, we are introduced to the protagonists who are re-locating to Morganville from New York City. The Littles (David, Kate, and young Becca) are a family in crisis. Kate is pregnant but the child may be the result of a rape, leaving David with ambivalent feelings. Morganville is the home of Kate’s gay brother, Joel, who is the acting county coroner. David apparently has some homophobic feelings about Joel, but these are never explained or explored in the novel, leaving the reader wondering why the author included them in the first place. We are also introduced to the Littles’ new neighbor, George, a retired ex-Marine.

The action starts with the suicide of the town’s Fire Chief, who is also a neighbor, and accelerates from there. There are some truly nasty creatures that murder a young boy and I was disappointed that these did not play a more prominent role as the novel progressed.

I guess what I found lacking in the book were explanations as to the what and why of the events surrounding the Littles. Why is it that this family, their neighbor, George, and the Chief of Police remain immune to the forces that consume everyone else in the town? Is there a common denominator somewhere in their past? And why is Becca singled out for sacrifice? These and other questions are left hanging by the wayside as the events unfold. I also felt some of the interactions between David and Kate, especially the romantic ones,  felt wooden and unreal.

However, all in all, this is not a bad read and, if fact, I’m sure many will enjoy it. But, for me, it left too many loose ends.

Written as homage to horror novels of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, a Salem’s Lot, it’s not … I give it three stars!

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