From a new star in horror fiction comes a terrifying novel of obsession, greed, and the shocking actions we’ll take to protect those we love, all set in a small town filled with dark secrets.
The Larkin siblings are known around the small town of Wofford Falls. Both are artists, but Peter Larkin, Lark to his friends, is the hometown hero. The one who went to the big city and got famous, then came back and settled down. He’s the kind of guy who becomes fast friends with almost anyone. His sister Betsy on the other hand is more… eccentric. She keeps to herself.
When Lark goes to deliver one of his latest pieces to a fabulously rich buyer, it seems like a regular transaction. Even being met at the gate of the sprawling, secluded estate by an intimidating security guard seems normal. Until the guard plays him a live feed: Betsy being abducted in real time.
Lark is informed that she’s safe for now, but her well‑being is entirely in his hands. He’s given a book. Do what the book says, and Betsy will go free.
It seems simple enough. But as Lark begins to read he realizes: the book might be demonic. Its writer may be unhinged. His sister’s captors are almost certainly not what they seem. And his town and those within it are… changing.
And the only way out is through.
Hi and welcome to my review of It Rides a Pale Horse!
There was just something about the title and the eerie cover that made me take a look at the blurb and well, if you know me at all, you’ll know they had me at “set in a small town filled with dark secrets”.
It Rides a Pale Horse is told from the perspective of Lark, an artist, a sculptor, whose sister has been abducted. In exchange for her life and freedom, Lark is to create a sculpture, build an installation, as per the… well… let’s call them instructions for lack of a better word, in a psalter he’s been given by his sister’s kidnappers.
It’s quite clear from the get-go that something is well and truly off about the psalter (as well as about the people who own it), and while Lark is gathering the stuff he needs for his creation he also notices that there is also something off about his town and the people he’s known all his life.
There are also the so-called museum interludes told from another perspective that allow us a peek at how Lark’s sister, the ever-present yet ever-elusive Betsy, is faring. Oh and did I mention Betsy is also an artist, a forger who, to all intents and purposes, mentally becomes the painter whose work she is imitating, like she’s possessed? And that’s not even the weirdest thing about her artwork…
I can’t even begin to describe this book and how it made me feel. It’s slow-burning in that eerie manner that raises the hair at the back of your neck without you even fully appreciating why. It takes a sinister, rather gory, rather visceral turn and is quite nightmarish in places.
The gorier bits are lightened by rather poetic turns of phrase, and I never quite knew what to expect next, nor what was actually going on. Honestly, this has to be one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read but definitely in a way that worked for me, that kept me wondering, that motivated me to keep on reading.
I’ve been thinking and thinking and turning it over in my head but my initial thought, and one that might not make any sense to you whatsoever but I can’t get rid of, is this: what It Rides a Pale Horse felt like to me, is a Salvador Dalí painting. (Which, I guess, is rather in keeping with Betsy’s storyline.) Surreal, warped daily life stuff, real elements in sinister compositions, dreamlike veering into nightmarish.
It Rides a Pale Horse felt unique in a big way because of the main storyline and executed premise and a number of smaller ways, in that it’s a sort of pick ‘n’ mix of ordinary horror elements, but applied and blended in such a way that it becomes something else entirely and the result is infinitely larger than the sum of its parts.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of the horror genre who are looking to shake things up.
It Rides a Pale Horse is out now!
Massive thanks to Redhook Books (Orbit) and #NetGalley for the eARC.