Evil in a small town is one of my favorite horror tropes and books like this are the reason why!
Harlowe, New Hampshire is a small town surrounded by small farms. It's a tightly knit community, or at least the townsfolk believe it is, until an outsider comes to town and things begin to unravel.
Perly Dunsmore is an auctioneer. Taking over a recently available old mansion in town, (due to the death of the previous owner), Perly sets about "improving" Harlowe by holding auctions to benefit the police department. These auctions are funded by the generous donations of the townspeople. Until they're no longer able to do so, (eventually there's nothing left), in which case they are gently and quietly threatened to come up with more donations, or ELSE. Will Harlowe survive these auctions or will it rise up against Perly in protest? You'll have to read this to find out!
I've been thinking about what this novel was really about and I'm still not quite sure. The strongest feeling I have about it relates to that old poem: "First they came for the Socialists...", but that's not quite right. Then I was wondering if it was really about fascism-the auctions after all first funded a police department, to the point of having almost as many officers and deputies as there were citizens in the entire town. But that doesn't quite fit the bill either, especially in light of the finale. Then I finally gave up the analyzing and endeavored to enjoy this novel for the yummy, atmospheric piece of horror fiction that it was.
If this is the type of story that usually works for you, (quiet, small town horror a la Tryon's HARVEST HOME, or maybe Michael Rowe's ENTER, NIGHT), I highly recommend you give this book a shot! I listened to it on audio, narrated by Matt Godfrey, whose voicing of Ma Moore I will never forget.
Atmospheric, full of tension and palpable fear, THE AUCTIONEER still holds up as an excellent tale, even now, 40 years later. I give it my highest recommendation!
*I received this audiobook gratis from the narrator in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it! Further, I consider Matt Godfrey to be a friend, although we've never met in person. This has not affected the content of this review.*