Title: The Red Church
Author: Scott Nicholson
Published by: Haunted Computer Books/Pinnacle Books
4 and a half chills (out of 5)
Reviewed by HM
For thirteen year old Ronnie Day, life is full of problems. His parents have separated, his younger brother is a pest, and Jesus Christ won’t stay in his heart. Worst of all, he has to walk past the Red Church every day with the Bell Monster inside with wings and claws and livers for eyes. But now Mom wants him to attend midnight services there since Archer McFall has become the church’s new preacher. Sheriff Frank Littlefield hates the church as well, since his own younger brother died there in a freak accident twenty years ago, and now the sheriff is seeing his ghost. And ever since McCall’s return to Whispering Pines, people are dying and Littlefield wants to know why. “Sacrifice is the currency of God,” McCall preaches, and unless Ronnie and Frank can stop him, the whole town will pay.
Scott Nicholson’s The Red Church probes into the dark superstitions and fears of the Southern Appalachians, turning religion into a frightening concept without becoming sacrilegious. This page turner brings to life the stories of three families- the Greggs, the Littlefields, and the McCalls- who were the first to settle in the rural mountain community, and of an old betrayal for which they all must suffer. Nicholson tells the story primarily through the eyes of young Ronnie and Sheriff Littlefield, two descendants of the old families who must battle for their loved ones and their own sanity. Arthur McCall, who believes himself to be the Second Son of God, reigns supreme over his congregation while hiding a dark and deadly secret. Complicating things even further are Archer’s mother, Mama Bet with her drive to punish the old families according to the will of her son, and Detective Sgt. Shelia Storie, an outsider from the city with her forensics and education. Nicholson’s primary focus with The Red Church may be faith, isn’t faith the story of the end of the world? And well, little Ronnie is definitely right about one thing. “The world never ends the way you believe it will.” From Ronnie and his little brother’s discovery of the dead and mangled corpse of Boonie Houck in the ancient churchyard, to the final showdown between Archer and his flock, this is one book that will scare the hell out of you and have you begging for more.
With rich and vibrant characters, details of Whispering Pines so vivid you almost forget you’re not actually there, and a sense of the macabre a la King, Nicholson brings to life one of the most terrifying tales you’ll ever read. While not the perfect story, there is very little to find fault with in these pages. The only complaint? Not being able to get a wink of sleep from either being unable to stop reading it or the nightmares that follow. So, go on a visit to a quaint little Carolina mountain town. I dare you.