“Paul knew from experience that the dead did not have futures, only pasts that repeated until madness.”
There’s a war going on alright. It was the one where I fought to fall asleep after closing the cover of this book late last night! Holy freakish delights, did I not see this gem of a horror story until it punched me right in the face.
I am always skeptical going into untested horror. It’s difficult to shock me without resorting to some seriously gruesome prose, of which, I am not a fan. But the horror-esque plot was subtle and viciously beautiful and took me by complete surprise.
What did I know going in? I knew there were some supernatural elements. An ex-profiler who can see the dead. A mystical drug dealer who also happens to be a witch. A cult. An impending apocalypse. You see why I couldn’t say no, right?!
Okay. So what should we talk about first //sips coffee and ponders\\ OH! I KNOW!!! THE FUCKING PROSE!!!
“A stoplight glowed bloody through rainwater, glistening the windshield into a crime scene.”
Considering Hughes refers to silver-tongued demons whispering honey-lies, the man definitely practices what he preaches, er, writes, because holy shit did I seriously swoon over many a stunning sentence. He makes the atmosphere a living thing and uses his words to paint terrifying pictures and I am here for it!
And then there’s the plot. I went in expecting a supernatural crime mystery. If you did too, don’t be disappointed. There is plenty of supernatural, crime, and mystery running amuck in these pages. But the combination of pulling background descriptions into haunting images worthy of their own character arc while creating the actual things of nightmares to chase the actual characters down… well… it’s just so much more than I went in expecting. And goddamn if it wasn’t a bloody delicious treat.
“She wondered what stories wrote themselves across the bedsheets in so many rooms, how many of them ended in jittery pacing up and down an unlit hall.”
But my absolute favorite thing about The War Beneath is how vividly, heartbreakingly relevant and realistic it actually ends up being. Take away the ghosts and the demons and you end up with a chilling story about corruption and power and the victims who pay the ultimate price. It’s also about heartbreak and tragedy. How people survive, or don’t, simply trying to get through life in whatever way they can. It’s complex but it hits home, never blurring the line of real trauma even while surrounding it with nightmares and dreamscapes.
In all, here’s all you need to know. Do you love crime? Devilish sentences? Devils in general? A dash of horror? Multiple gun fights? Ghosts? Cults? Witches? Monsters? Trickster fog? Oh yeah, there’s trickster fog. Then you need this book.
Huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Permuted Press for sending me a copy and including me on this tour!
“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”
Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.
Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.
Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.
S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.