by Jeremy Bates
This is the third book in the World's Scariest Places series, which is a series of stand alone books all set in real places that have some sort of creepy folklore about them. I've read two others and they were really good, so I had high hopes for this one.
Helltown is about a place in Ohio that has effectively disappeared now, but had a reputation for meetings of Satanic groups, ghostly sightings and strange occurrences. It seemed like a great set-up for me as I love a good occult story, but unfortunately it let me down. This was mainly a problem with the characters. There wasn't anyone I could feel sympathetic for and the Satanists just weren't believable. It was like someone tried to do Dennis Wheatley and failed.
I can't fault the writing, except for a few passages that make me wonder if Bates might have written this one when he was less experienced. A run-on sentence that gave an info dump on a new character to open chapter 16 made me actually check to see it was the same author!
It's otherwise error-free and very effective writing. Admittedly using the most unlikely group of people possible for the Satanists put me off and effectively made the story lose all credibility, but I might have overlooked that if I could have cared about even one character and whether they would live through the experience.
There is some pretty nasty violence and a shocker at the end, so as a Horror book it ticks all the boxes, except for the occult aspect that might have made me enjoy it more. Slasher readers might love it.