Written by: Myra Gabor
The monsters are back. And they are big and bloody and scary. Jonathan Janz has given us the kind of story we come across too seldom, that slow build up of terror as the menace grows.
Children of the Dark focuses on Will, his two best friends, Chris and Barley, as well as the girls they like and the bullies who hate the boys. We feel sorry for Will. No father in the home and his mother addicted to pain killers. He’s the town’s pity case, having to wear clothes and shoes from charity shops. Until we go inside his friends’ homes and see the kinds of families his affluent friends and even his enemies have to endure.
Will’s biggest concerns are that he play well for his high school baseball team, avoid the town’s bullies and be able to talk to Mia, the girl he likes. Talking to Mia is complicated because she’s currently dating one of the bullies who uses this as an excuse to give Will a solid beating. All his problems are exacerbated by the news that a serial killer has escaped from prison. The killer used to live in Will’s town and some people feel he might be headed back that way.
The town they live in is at the edge of a forest. The forest has hollows, hills and lots of caves. Anything could be hiding in those caves, but the boys feel sure that the killer would never come back to a place where he would be easily recognized.
Will and his two friends usually head for the treehouse they built in the forest. They’ve stocked it with some broken furniture and tools they found, kerosene for their oil lamp and old Playboy magazines. This is their safe place, the place they go to get away from their problems at home.
The night that they get up the nerve to ask the girls they like to go on a walk in the forest, they are astonished and delighted when the girls agree. All goes well, until Mia gets spooked. She swears the saw two glowing green eyes in a pale face staring at her from the trees. They all beat a hasty retreat. Later Will’s friend Barley introduces him to a new word: cryptid; basically another word for monsters. He manages to terrify Will.
Added to the mix of monsters and a serial killer/pedophile/cannibal is a thick headed obstinate sheriff and his two deputies who make Deputy Dawg seem competent.
Jonathan Janz manages to seamlessly weave in how people’s behavior can surprise us. He shows us how pig headedness doesn’t have anything to do with bravery. How cowardice goes hand-in-hand with selfishness and self-serving, even how the weak can become brave and strong.
The only objection I have to this book is how the author telegraphed his punches. At the beginning of the book he wrote: “The week I saw seventeen people die didn’t begin with blood, monsters, or a sadistic serial killer”. I’m sorry to tell you that I started counting the bodies. Oh, well, that’s who I am. He also started some chapters with informing us who or how many wouldn’t live through the night. My own feeling is that he would have been better off putting those sentences inside the chapters instead of leading off with them.
Jonathan Janz knows how to write a story and pull the reader in. It’s a page turner. I’m really looking forward to reading his next novel. I sure hope it’s a continuation of Will and the monsters.