Black Bed Sheet Books
Trade Paper, 296 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
“There were kid zombies sprouting out of his yard like dandelions. Triplets at that.” Reading such a passage is an alert: This is amped-up horror. Spooky twins no longer suffice. In Blood Orchard, S.D. Hintz goes one better. The author takes the severed head and runs with it full bloody tilt. Mutilations mount as ghastly, gruesome grotesqueries populate a very small town. It’s beyond the notion of something wicked this way comes. It’s more akin to: Something subversively funny and wickedly gross, comes and attacks. The assault is horrific and humorous; Hintz goes for broke, utilizing the bizarre little community conceit and exaggerating it. He succeeds in creating a universe where sanity is subjective, and no one is above reproach.
In the town of Onward, baby triplets have gone missing. This echoes an event of fifteen years prior, in which sadistic sisters (terrible, tormenting teenaged triplets) disappeared. Do bad things come in threes? Or do bad things come to threes? The characters are, for the most part, not innocents. Some are reactionary, vigilante inspired victims; but even they have a dark side longing to emerge. Others are certifiable lunatics, for whom casual killing is a walk in the park. Their main concern is disposing of the corpses – or body parts.
Into this melee of mayhem, Coren Raines is catapulted. The ostensible protagonist becomes the unfortunate inhabitant of haunted property. Beleaguered, befuddled, and bedazzled, Raines is reminiscent of Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead films: Initially disbelieving, then fervently forced to confront and battle the warped weirdness around him. He turns to drink for fortitude; “He needed a liquor store like a clown needed face paint.”
Blood Orchard is riddled with a sense of the ridiculous. There are puns: “He hoped there was food beyond oranges in the store, otherwise his plan would be fruitless.” And the appreciation of the absurd is never far from the surface: “The girls seemed tangible, but that was impossible. Dead bodies didn’t climb out of wells and smell like oranges.” Then, there’s the high school named: J. Edgar.
Over the top in scary-silly sensibility, Blood Orchard is highly entertaining. S.D. Hintz clearly reveres and enjoys horror, hysteria, and hilarity. He packages those attributes into a boisterous bundle. Embrace the mix; it’s a scream.