This review originally appeared on Kendall Reviews in 2019.
*4.5 out of 5*
“Rebecca thought she’d find a hippie paradise when she moved to the desolate back hills of Humboldt County. A place to commune with nature and teach her five-year-old daughter how to live off the land. Instead she discovered a nightmare.”
Kind Nepenthe isn’t an outright horror novel, despite its haunting of the hills. Rather, much of its story is a gritty drama in the vein of Elmore Leonard and Don Winslow (i.e. crime-fused). Your characters and their lives are the focus here, and therein lies the (dark) charm of Kind Nepenthe.
A good chunk of the novel comes in its introductions to the various characters in play. Eventually, their disjointed lives will come together in an explosive way; but as wonderful as that conclusion is, the ride is just as special and engrossing. Each storyline is given its time and attention, rather than have the weight fall on one to carry the others. You get to know each character, and even care about them (despite some obvious flaws). This makes it all the more devastating when everything collides.
The way it all comes together is ultimately glorious, albeit horrific. I loved the Shining vibes I was given, whether they were intentional or not. And although this story is quite bleak (in true Brockmeyer fashion), the brutality of the endings (yes, plural – remember, you have several storylines followed here) are fitting and exceptional. Prepare for grief. Prepare for violence. Lives definitely shatter here.
Under Rotting Sky was my first taste of Brockmeyer’s dark magic. Kind Nepenthe has now proven to me that he can do a full-length story just as well as his amazing shorts. By the time Kind Nepenthe had come to an end, I was in awe. This is a crushing novel that will leave you as haunted as Homicide Hill.