Gary A. Braunbeck
May 27, 2008
Trade Paperback/333 pages
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". . .a tale that turns reality, time and the perception of good and evil on its head. . ."
Coffin County : The end of time postponed in Cedar Hill, Ohio.
Charlie Smeds, night watchman at the Franklin Beaumont Casket Company, makes his evening rounds and come dinnertime takes his meal outside on the bench across from Talley’s Hideaway. The current owner, Eugene Talley, joins Charlie and the two old friends enjoys each other’s company and good food. Out of the darkness, comes a procession of mourners following wagons piled high with the dead. A little girl holding her doll walks behind. She stops and asks Charlie to pick her up and take her to where they will bury her parents. She feels so cold and tired. Charlie obliges. The moment he touches her Charlie sets in motion a chain of events that ends in an explosion of death that night in 1969. Death will follow again and again because balance must be maintained.
Using physics and fractals as a basis for his story, Gary Braunbeck continues his Cedar Hill cycle of stories in Coffin County. It is a tale that turns reality, time and the perception of good and evil on its head with thought provoking results. Braunbeck uses science as a seed out of which sprouts horror with religious and historical implications. The exhaustive research shows, however. At times, information dumps that are guaranteed to glaze the eyes of all but the most dedicated science and crime buffs overwhelm the reader. Still, Braunbeck bears watching and reading.
The best horror writers are those able to take an idea and twist it out of focus just enough to fill the shadows with malignant beings ready to pull the unwary out of the light and into the terror-filled darkness. On this point, Braunbeck delivers and excels. It isn’t enough to populate a small Midwest town with serial killers and malign influences. All previous ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, reality and fantasy are twisted until everything is inside out and upside down, and everyone is faced with embracing the horror within. Coffin County not only chills the blood but also sends the mind reeling with a trip along Braunbeck’s Möbius strip of reality.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell