Gary A. Braunbeck
Leisure, May 2008, $7.99
Cedar Hill, Ohio has seen more than its share of violence over the two centuries since its foundation. In fact the small town was built on the blood of mass murders. Several decades ago, a mob lynched a man. Recently, the casket factory exploded before burning down the surrounding neighborhood.
Violence is the periodic norm. The townsfolk believe the ancient tree contains demons locked away for eternity as long as no one slices a limb. When murder arrives, everyone knows the tree is not containing a demon. When murders begin that puts Cedar Hill on the national news beyond being known as the Coffin County, the police investigate. The Reverend who runs the Cedar Hill Open Shelter will tell you more than you want to know; he is even writing the events down. The police detectives are not as forthcoming with the truth as the clues of the homicides lead back to an abandoned cemetery besides which everyone especially Sheriff Jackson is watching Ben Littlejohn whose wife and son were killed.
With two Cedar Hill short stories on top of the full length novels, fans of small-town horror thrillers will appreciate the aptly named COFFIN COUNTY. The prime tale takes its time as Gary A. Braunbeck establishes the atmosphere with a unique strangely different style, a personalized account by people like the Reverend and Ben reacting to the serial murders that seem impossible to have occurred by a mortal. Fans must peruse deep into the novel before beginning to understand the cause, but most readers will enjoy the slow simmer leading to learning what is going on in Cedar Hill while wondering whether a grieving Ben will only watch from the sidelines.