Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can’t refuse by President Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla abound. The only problem those who go seeking their fortune never return. Black-eyed children, strange lights and ferocious wild men venture from the deep, dark ghost mine…as well as a sinister force hungry for fresh souls.
First of all, massive thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on this Random Things Tour and to Flame Tree Press for sending me a beautiful review copy! I have to say: Flame Tree Press is solely responsible for my reconnecting with the horror genre and they are killing it at the mo! So if you’re in the market for rekindling your old love for horror, or maybe jump-starting an entirely new love, this is an excellent place to start!
So let me tell you a little bit more about this particular Flame Tree Press baby I was fortunate enough to read already: Ghost Mine.
After a prologue that sets the tone for the rest of the novel (i.e. it creeped me out), Ghost Mine starts with an introduction of its two main players. They are two men who could not be more different but they are the best of friends and made it through battle together, saving each other’s life more than once: Nat Blackburn, the cowboy with the Stetson, and Nico – Teta – Delacruz, the Dominican with the sombrero. For those of you who know some Spanish, yes, that nickname means exactly what you’re thinking it might mean, but apparently, if you don’t ask, he won’t tell, and I thought it was safer not to ask! Nat was a Rough Rider alongside president Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were an actual US army regiment, by the way), and now Teddy needs a tough guy to help him out. He asks Nat to go to Hecla, a deserted town in the middle of nowhere, and investigate a mine that is apparently the place to find gold and, seemingly, to lose people, because every single person who goes to this old mine town is never seen again, including a group of soldiers. Strange? Yes! Intriguing? Even more so! And so this little blogger happily joined Nat and Teta on their travels! Said travels are by train and on horseback, since Ghost Mine is set in what feels like the wild west, in a time where the automobile was not that commonly used, especially not outside the larger cities. Although I’m not a western film fan at all, I really liked that, the setting fits the story perfectly. Moreover, Hunter Shea has a very expressive and suggestive way with words, never overly descriptive, yet so evocative that I could practically smell the horses and feel the dust on my lips.
Nat and Teta’s adventures begin on the train from New York City, where they were working as police officers, to Laramie, Wyoming which is as close as they can get to Hecla by public transport. Once in Laramie, they have to get horses to travel to Hecla. Although at this point, Nat seems more interested in Selma, the farmer’s daughter, than in her horses. Selma has a history with Hecla too: her husband and his brothers went there to search for gold and never returned. And so eventually she decides to join Nat and Teta, in hopes of finally finding out what happened to her family. I have to admit, I did raise my eyebrows at Nat and Teta and how they seem towards women, almost objectifying them on the one hand, treating them like damsels in distress on the other. But then I reminded myself that their attitudes were completely in sync with the times and the genre. In any case, as the story progresses, the guys don’t have a lot of time to ponder the allure of the female body: there’s black-eyed kids and monsters and Djinns and things that would give Cujo a run for his money. And the problem is, once you are in Hecla, it does not let you leave again, and it doesn’t seem very keen on letting you live either. All this creates a very claustrophobic little world that spooked me and creeped me out and, well, delighted me in equal measure.
From strange, inexplicable sounds and rather timid black-eyed kids, the story escalates to include a lot of things that go more than a little bump in the night. I read this as a reward for a whole day of adulting, and it was just what I needed to chill and relax and forget all about the world.
Recommended to horror fans, especially those with a little western love to boot!
Ghost Mine is out on 30 May, be sure to check it out! And in the meantime, find out what my fellow horror lovers have to say: