Midnight in the Chapel of Love
Matthew R. Davis
JournalStone Publishing (January 29, 2021)
Reviewed by Ray Palen
I am always on the lookout for new, essential voices in the horror genre and thrilled to say that with my read of MIDNIGHT IN THE CHAPEL OF LOVE by Australian author Matthew R. Davis, I have found just that.
This novel borders on literary horror—I find much of the ‘new’ horror out there is too focused on extreme scares and gory thrills while forgetting what makes up the DNA of classic horror. MIDNIGHT IN THE CHAPEL OF LOVE has all of this DNA—back-story, folklore, supernatural/paranormal chills, and complex characters you truly care about. The novel opens with a great backstory featuring two rowdy and ultra-violent young people—Billy Ross & Poppy Diamantopoulos—sort of like the Australian version of Charles Starkweather & Caril Ann Fugate. However, in this story the couple on a killing spree find the infamous cave that houses the Chapel of Love and are never seen again.
Our protagonist is Jonny Trotter, and we see glimpses of him from the past as well as present day. In present day, Jonny is forced to return to the small town he left behind and has not revisited for fifteen years—Waterwich. He is there to attend his father’s funeral and brings his new girlfriend, Sloane, with him. Jonny had his reasons for not wanting to return and it was not all familial. Yes, his mother did disappear—not in an accident, as his father claimed, but allegedly in the Chapel. Jonny also had his own taste of the Chapel up close when he and then girlfriend Jessica visited it one night. They got all the way inside up to the section where it was foretold that they could ‘test their love’. Jonny was the only one to make it out of the Chapel that fated evening and he does not remember what happened to Jessica.
Sloane pressures Jonny to come full circle for much needed closure and take her to the Chapel. Jonny had heard that the cave had since been boarded up, but he finds it open, and even containing markings from when Billy and Poppy were there. They enter the dark cave with the intention of going all the way—but will an older and wiser Jonny be able to pass the test of the Chapel with Sloane? I will leave that to you to find out. MIDNIGHT IN THE CHAPEL OF LOVE delivers in every sense of the word and is one of the finest horror novels I have read in years. As a huge music fan, I particularly loved how each chapter used a song title name—some quite obscure. I really fancied the inclusion of “The Funeral Party” by The Cure, “About a Girl” by Nirvana, “Came Back Haunted” by Nine Inch Nails, and the final chapter “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. Matthew R. Davis—a horror voice to watch out for, indeed!