Review: Violet by Scott Thomas
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Mystery,
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Inkshares | Audible Studios (September 24, 2019)
Length: 448 pages | 16 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Two years ago, Scott Thomas thrilled and chilled me with Kill Creek, which has become one of my favorite books about haunted houses. Now he has a new novel out, in which he’s whisking readers off to yet another creepy and rundown old home, this time on the placid shores of Lost Lake in rural Pacington, Kansas. Compared to his first novel, Violet is definitely more of a moody affair, toning down the blood and violence in favor of a more psychological horror and paranormal vibe. The result is a slower and more measured approach to storytelling, which requires a fair amount of patience, but the second half makes up for it by regaining momentum with a fast and furious comeback.
As the story opens on the quiet lake town of Pacington, we are introduced to a small community that guards its secrets closely. After all, with the economy already killing the tourism industry, the last thing its residents want is to air their grief. Still, for Kris Barlow, who experienced her own tragedy when she was a little girl in the summer of 1988 at her family’s cottage on Lost Lake where she said goodbye to her mother who died of cancer, the town still holds a sense of beauty and nostalgia. Now, thirty years later, a terrible loss has struck Kris once again, and she has decided to return to Pacington with her 8-year-old daughter Sadie for several months in order to heal from the trauma of what happened. Kris’ father had never sold their property there before he died, and she figured a summer spent by the lake would be the perfect place to escape her problems for a while.
Upon arrival, however, Kris is shocked to see the cottage in a state of neglect and disrepair. Her father had always been such a practical and fastidious man, but for some reason, just prior to his death, he had given strict instructions to the property manager to stop all maintenance on the house and simply let it rot away. Frustrated, Kris decides to fix up the place herself, making it her project for the summer. But soon, she starts hearing disturbing rumors around town, and people seem to act uncomfortable around her especially when they find out she has a young daughter. Sadie herself is as withdrawn as ever, still coming to terms with grief. If anything, coming to Pacington has made her even more guarded and distant, and Kris has started catching her daughter talking aloud to herself, or responding to a voice that isn’t there…
So, while Violet is technically a book with several acts, in essence it really boils down to two distinct halves—the first, dragging half where nothing much happens; and the second, more intense half where suddenly, everything becomes insane. As usual with such cases, I just wish there had been a better balance. For the first two hundred pages or so, the narrative revolved around the minutiae of moving to a new town and more detail than you could ever want about fixing up a decrepit old house. I got the feeling Scott Thomas badly wanted to give Pacington and the cottage at Lost Lake a sense of place, making the setting as much a main character as the novel’s human protagonists, but unfortunately it didn’t really work out that way. Instead, we got all the particulars but that not much substance. While I understood the purpose of showing the state of the town and of the house, the level of description carried things well past this point into frustration territory. I mean, there’s only so much of the trivialities of deck sanding, house cleaning, or yard work that I can take.
That said, the second half of the book was another story—and I mean that in every sense. The plot finally got down to the business of making things happen, and instead of focusing on the house, we got to learn more about the characters themselves. For one thing, we found out why Kris’ childhood at Lost Lake mattered, as well as how some of her past experiences paralleled Sadie’s. More detail was also revealed about why mother and daughter escaped their home in Colorado in order to hide out at Pacington in the first place. All this was juicy information I wish the author had introduced a little earlier, as it would have improved the earlier sections of the book. The second half of Violet was amazing, however. Thomas delivered all the mystery and terror that was promised, and while I still can’t understand why he took so long, I’m glad the late revelations and strong ending made this novel all worth it.
Audiobook Comments: Any long-time audiobook listener would have probably heard of Cassandra Campbell, but it has been a while since I’ve listened to something she narrated and Violet reminded me all the reasons why I love her voices. Her variety of tones and accents makes the town of Pacington feel alive with different people, and she’s also definitely got her “horror movie little girl voice” down! All told, I’m pleased I also got to experience this story in audio because the format added quite a bit of depth and immersion. Recommended.