Trade Paper, 254 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
A coterie of kids confronts the supernatural, but the menace reappears; prompting a horror-filled reunion. What immediately springs to mind is It by Stephen King. The theme resurfaces in JG Faherty’s Cemetery Club. Four adolescent friends tried to banish a baleful presence in their community, and were rendered vulnerable and emotionally abused from the experience. Twenty years later they must reconvene to combat the recurring evil, confronting an aspect of their lives they sought to repress. It is certainly not fair to subject Faherty to comparisons to King; Cemetery Club must be evaluated on its own merits. Still, tackling a motif that is so readily familiar is risky. And any writer who does so puts his/her head on the proverbial chopping block. JG Faherty gets a stay of execution for adapting the premise in a satisfactory, if not overly exciting, manner.
When the small town of Rocky Point is again seized by a series of disappearances and acts of violence, the now adult members of the Cemetery Club reassemble. Consumed by culpability regarding the earlier malevolent assault, the quartet shakily bands back together. Todd, a minister’s son, is just returning home after years spent in a mental institution. He accepted primary responsibility for the occult infused debacle of two decades ago. Found in incriminating circumstances, he was labeled an insane murderer and assigned to institutionalization instead of incarceration. Another member of the club is Cory, an attorney from a well-to-do background. Shortly after the devastating incident he and his family left the area. Cory returns and exercises his legal expertise to aid Todd, who is jailed for new slayings and mass mayhem. Also back in the mix is John, whose personal demons led him to poverty and the streets. Rounding out the foursome is the de rigueur hot babe: Marisol, a forensics analyst in the Medical Examiner’s office; she’s also a former trophy wife who left a loveless marriage to a powerful city official. Marisol and Cory flirted in school, and their reuniting ignites the opportunity for consummation of the ardor. Can passion survive in the midst of demons that turn people into zombies? You betcha. Fear and foreplay get the blood pumping.
Said demons are known as Shadow People, and date back to the Sumerians. Dealing with them requires the usual Christian arsenal of holy water, consecrated wafers, not wavering in faith, etc. The zombies they create, however, require more mundane treatment. And the intrepid gang of four understands the dichotomy: “They were armed for both supernatural and physical threats – Holy water for the Shades and tire irons for the zombies – but the whole concept of fighting went against the strategy of not emitting any negative energy.”
In the early pages of the novel, there is an awkwardly phrased sentence fragment: “Her ultimate goal had ultimately been to…” As the narrative proceeds, such glaring technical issues dissipate; no more obvious verbal stumbles. The author’s writing proficiency shines brightest when sensory images are invoked. The olfactory sense is repeatedly used to good advantage: a “vile stench emanated from body parts” is a muted and truncated example of the smells that permeate the story. Others are far more putrid and potent. And this passage concerning a hospital is quite effective: “The poorly-hidden aroma of sickness and death tainted the air of the Critical Care ward, an odor all the pine and lemon-scented cleaning agents in the world couldn’t eliminate.”
Cemetery Club is comfortable horror that features some fine descriptive passages. JG Faherty’s tale doesn’t rock the genre boat – it simply sails along pleasantly.