Written by: Drake Morgan
Mark Allan Gunnells gives us a novella about ghosts, obsession, and murder in his tale, October Roses. The story centers on a group of college students doing what every student does. They party, date, have sex, and go adventuring for dark places around Halloween. Only this time, two young men stir up far more than just the shivers as they stumble across the unmarked grave of a long-dead killer.
The story opens with the hunt for the grave of a serial killer. I groaned. Not another serial killer. As I read, I realized the serial killer element was simply a plot device to establish our sinister specter. It was designed to make him feel more menacing. The actual story revolves around Kurt and his group of friends in the aftermath of their gruesome discovery. Gunnells builds the suspense well, and we get a very grim surprise in the end (no spoilers, but good intentions and all that come into play here). There are challenging questions about the timelessness of evil set against the possibility of madness and obsession.
While the narrative is wonderfully done, the characters are lackluster. Perhaps because of the length, we never get fully fleshed out personalities. There’s little depth to the primary characters and the secondary characters seem to only serve as plot propulsion. As the murders began, I did not care enough about the characters to give their loss meaning.
The narrative is the real strength of this one. Gunnells gives us an old-fashioned Gothic tale that walks that borderland between supernatural and a disturbed psychology. Kurt’s sanity is always in question, but Gunnells skillfully gives us enough paranormal horror to believe anything and nothing. A good read.
Order October Roses here.