Still Water is the third novel released by Justin R. Macumber and is his first foray into the horror genre. It tells the story of a young man, Kyle, who after escaping his coal mining hometown and joining the U.S. Army he is pulled back into it some years later after receiving disturbing reports of a change in character of his parents by his younger, High School, aged sister. Also entering this little American town is a blogge, Maya, who has been drawn to the town to investigate its strange history for her website. They come together to discover what is truly happening in this town and how it could affect the world around them.
That’s the general gist of it, I will just say how much I hate writing plot synopsis as I never feel I give them enough oomph, but to what I thought of it:
So far this year I’ve ben lucky as I’ve had a few books which have really blown my mind away and Still Water is right up there with them. The story is solid, the characters are fascinating and not cookie cutter. The setting of Stillwater feels very authentic, and creepy all the way through the book. Speaking of creepy this one did really creep me out at times. There have not been many books where I’ve flinched as I’ve been reading them, Scott Sigler’s Infected comes to mind, but this one made me flinch on a number of occasions. It also made me laugh and I actually said at one stage ‘Ewww’
Mr. Macumber has written a very tight book here, there is next to no fat in the entire novel; everything in it has a point and there are very few words that are wasted. This is one of the things that makes it a page turner, the story doesn’t take half a book to get started. There are no chapters that felt like they took a tea break. The plot deepens with each page, but the characters don’t feel hurried because of this. I’ve seen criticism of some books that say the story never gives the reader a chance to breath, but how Mr. Macumber has paced the story allows for a slow build up of tension which is eased off in various places, but it doesn’t loose that momentum of cranking up the threat which is almost always there.
One of the strong points of the novel is the characters and their interactions. They all felt very natural and genuine, especially the dialogue between Kyle and an old friend, Dirk. We can see they’re good friends and despite time apart they pick up the laddish banter without any hurdles.
The part of this story that sticks with me the most is how I felt reading it, throughout the novel there is this sense of despair and decay; which Justin R. Macumber does really, really well. He doesn’t force it down our throats, he doesn’t spell it out in black and white, it’s just there. I’d imagine it’s easy to just throw into a story lots of blood and guts and those torture porn tropes but Still Water doesn’t have those; yes it does have gross parts and those parts I mentioned about flinching but none of them would have been half as effective without that sense of decay and despair.
Please check it out, it’s available on Amazon and other fine retailers, and if you like what you see give it a go, it’s worth it.