The old house waited. For years there had been rumours that the owner, Lilith Martin, had been part of an unholy cult. People spoke of blasphemous rituals, black rites filled with blood, sex… and sacrifices. Then Lilith died and the house sat empty. Until now.
Lilith’s nephew, Chris, and his wife, Ellie, are moving in. Ellie isn’t happy about living in such a dark, foreboding place, but she wants to get pregnant and this house has a lot more room to raise a baby than their apartment. Unfortunately, she and Chris will soon learn that Lilith has other plans.
Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Darkest Lullaby! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation and to Flame Tree Press for the eARC through NetGalley. And kudos to both for seducing me into accepting the invite when I had sworn I would most certainly not take on any more tours this month ? What can I say, I’m a sucker for Flame Tree Press, the publisher that’s been scratching all my horror itches since 2018, the one that reminded me of how much fun horror can be when it’s done right, and how much I actually love speculative fiction in all its shapes and sizes.
Alrightie, enough waffling, we’re here to talk about one particular Flame Tree baby today: The Darkest Lullaby by Jonathan Janz, in case you hadn’t noticed. Speaking of babies, this one is not a cutesy munchkin you want to fawn over and cuddle until it’s blue in the face, it’s more Rosemary’s baby that wants to strangle you until you’re blue in the face…
Chris grew up in Indiana with his aunt Lilith. He has fond memories of her. She might have been a bit peculiar at times, but still, she was a kindly lady and she treated him well. Lilith has passed away and left everything to her nephew and Chris has decided to leave sunny Malibu behind and return to Indiana. His wife Ellie is not so sure, and she’s even less sure once she sees the somewhat dilapidated mansion they’re supposed to live in from now on. In fact, she’s getting more sure by the minute that she wants to get the hell away from there and ASAP too. Sure there’s a lot of privacy, no neighbours for miles and miles, and a lot of peace and quiet and space, the ideal location to finally get pregnant and raise their child, but the place just makes her antsy and paranoid. Or is she? Is she seeing things that aren’t there, are the remoteness and spookiness and general gloom of the place getting to her, or is there something there, a certain malevolence?
Before long, things are escalating and Ellie finds proof that dear aunt Lilith was more than a little creepy (like way way WAY more). Chris however, is not open to any criticism. Actually, Chris is not open to anything Ellie says or does. He seems to have undergone a personality transplant and this new Chris? Well Ellie isn’t sure she even likes him anymore, and I, as the reader who knew what Chris had been up to, I actively loathed him. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t his fault, he had fallen under the spell of the naked young woman in the woods (anyone want to hazard a guess who she turns out to be?). Still, I kept shaking my e-reader, hoping to shake some sense into him.
Did I see you cock an eyebrow at the nakedness of the woman in the woods? Yes, well, there is quite a lot of nudity, and the malevolence in The Darkest Lullaby is fed by lust and sex, more than fear, violence and blood (although there’s lots of that too). This is the third Janz I’ve read so far, after The Siren and the Spectre and House of Skin. While lust and nudity and sex were used there too, I feel that Janz has gone an extra mile or two with The Darkest Lullaby! The fact that he explores demonism and vampirism made it okay for me that The Darkest Lullaby ventures a tiny bit towards eroticism, since demons and especially vampires have always been portrayed as lustful creatures in horror and that made the more erotic scenes make sense, and they also aptly show the demise of Chris’s values, and with them, his sanity.
The Darkest Lullaby comes together cleverly and satisfyingly. An enjoyable read, not for the faint of heart on account of some truly excellent horror scenes, and best not read in the dark, even if you do consider yourself a very tough cookie! Recommended to horror fans who don’t mind a bit of nudity and sexual shenanigans.