Written in the first person, “The Taking of Peggy Martin” certainly snags attention as author Karen Glista drags you fast through the deep south. We meet the widowed Peggy, who turns out to be a well educated and God-fearing nurse. The more we learn about her, the darker she gets. From sleeplessness to self-harm, her psyche is haunted as they come. It is easy to feel for her being wracked with insomnia and enchanted by her stories of youth–her grandmother, the townsfolk and church–but knowing she’s hounded by the death of her husband. Soon the cracks start to show as her waking nightmares become all too real.
After a horrific incident at work in the halls of the mental asylum worms into her sleepless nights, we lose sight of the line between nurse and patient. She’s in need of help and unable to ask as trying to keep her life together takes too much time and energy. Then, she comes face to face with Morgan. A feral young man who is rumoured to be mute and wild after living alone in the Piney Wood Thicket following the mysterious disappearance of his entire family.
It’s doubly unnerving to read as we see through Peggy’s eyes and are privy to her unravelling thoughts, but unnerving in the best way. Then, everything gets unnaturally dark, and the forces behind her husband’s death and Morgan’s past entwine. This takes us into the bulk of the book where the story delves deep into horror and science fiction; something one would barely expect from the first quarter which reads like a regency drama set in the 50s.
So much purple prose is woven by Glista that some readers may need tinted glasses to get by. At times it works, being thrust deep into the heart of Texas, but some lines are far too flowery even for the sweetest rose. It persists, wonderfully, through the most vile scenes of gore and inhumanity that Peggy witnesses so the very colourful writing serves to break tension during rape, cannibalism, decapitations, eviscerations and buckets of gore. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was a welcome and refreshing mix. It’s really more of a tall glass of iced tea on a hot stormy afternoon… with a human eyeball bobbing around under the cubes and lemon wedge. There are so many colloquialisms and regional manners of speaking it would take some research by those not familiar with Texas to see if they are all actual slang and in common usage. Those who baulk at dialect being written out at every turn would find this trying, though Glista can thank the first quarter of her work for truly setting a tone and creating a space with rules so the reader is kind of tied to the horse as it were. And boy, can that horse jump.
The novel is listed as supernatural first and foremost then mystery, though considering the amount of gore and the nature of Peggy’s relationship with the other inhabitants of the Thicket, I’d have to stick it right into horror if not bizarro science-fiction. As a fan of the former I could rate this at three stars easily if not four for the latter. Fans of bizarro horror cult hit “The Gospel of Bucky Dennis: A Southern Gothic Horror Hymn” by J. R. Parks would adore this, and perhaps those who watched the current mini-series gem “Jordskott” but wanted it to be a little more racy and action-packed will get a lot out of “The Taking of Peggy Martin”. The only place where this loses points is having so much packed into the story that the pace varies wildly from a giddy trot to a breakneck race to get it all in–and the flowery terms alongside overused phrases. Where it wins, however, kept me sucked into the insane steeplechase this little widow finds herself on.
I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.