Joe Schreiber’s brilliantly creepy debut novel will have discerning horror connoisseurs everywhere comparing it to terror-inducing classics like Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. Equal parts supernatural horror and psychological thriller, the majority of Chasing the Dead takes place during one nightmarish 14-hour period.
On December 21, the longest night of the year, single mother Sue Young returns home from work to find her one-year-old daughter Veda and her nanny missing. Then the phone rings. It’s the kidnapper. In order for Young to get her daughter back alive, she must follow the abductor’s instructions precisely. Her first task is to drive to Gray Haven, the sleepy New England suburb where she and her estranged husband Phillip grew up, dig up a corpse wrapped in garbage bags from underneath a secluded bridge and place it in the back of her SUV. After completing the task and returning to her vehicle, she finds her nanny dead in the passenger seat, eyes brutally removed. A bloody map is attached to the corpse: one with a highlighted route meandering through several small New England townships. For Young to rescue her daughter, she must travel the exact route with corpses in tow and arrive at the last town, White’s Cove, before sunrise. But when she begins to see strange similarities in the towns she drives through—namely statues of a late 18th-century sea captain named Isaac Hamilton—she realizes that the person who abducted her child may not be a person at all.
Schreiber’s first novel is an utterly readable nail-biting tour de force narrated in adrenaline-fueled, staccato chapters that all end with some kind of cliffhanger or bombshell. Readers will find it practically impossible to put down this bloodcurdling book until the last page. An infamous serial killer, a centuries-old mystery, decaying zombies, sadistic ghosts: What more could you ask for? Two rotting thumbs way up!
Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Camillus, New York.