Monday, July 18, 2016

Dreamthorp - Chet Williamson

This book is a bit out of my usual genres in that it's considered a horror novel.  There's violence and sex and sexual violence, so I hesitated, but I figured I'd skim when I came to those parts.  I already have occasional screaming nightmares, so I was concerned about how scary the book would be.  If I found life that scary, what would I do after reading a horror novel?  But it's not as graphic as some others I've read.

I read the book because the author and I went to the same high school, although he was four years ahead of me.  I also remember that he used to occasionally perform at the church my family attended, playing his guitar and singing.  I read his first book, Soulstorm, when it came out in 1986, but I don't remember much about it.

I also read it because it takes place in a fictionalized version of a place I know pretty well:  Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania.  My sister and her husband own a summer cottage there.  It's a lovely 'back-in-time' place, where people sit on their porches and read or go to Socrates Cafe on Saturdays or a play or for walks around the lake.  The cottages are gingerbread, some small, some larger, there are tall trees, few cars in the village, and it's quiet.  There are two parts of Mt. Gretna:  the Chautauqua side and the Camp Meeting side, both mingling and both interesting.  I recognized traits or occupations of some real people in the fictional characters.  But, my, oh, my, I hope Mt. Gretna never turns into the fictional Dreamthorp!

There are two story streams.  Two women take a camping trip out west.  One is brutally murdered by a violent sexual predator and the other shoots the murderer, well, between the legs and permanently damages him.  He wakes up from a coma months later, escapes from the hospital, and sets off on a killing spree to find the woman who shot him.  She now lives in Dreamthorp, trying to regain peace in her life after the horror she's seen.

Meanwhile, in Dreamthorp, two metal detector enthusiasts find a quartz figurine buried in the woods. A museum in Harrisburg buys it and stashes it in their storeroom.  It's a Native American piece that was placed over the graves of some Native American warriors killed in a long-forgotten battle in Dreamthorp.  Removing the stone releases the savage spirits that had been trapped for ages.

The Dreamthorp Playhouse collapses suddenly and without cause, killing several people and injuring others.  Then an old man is killed when he falls down the steps.  One of the metal detectorists is killed in a horrifying manner in the woods.  A young boy is almost beheaded when he falls through the floor of the Ice Cream Shoppe (which I recognize as the real Jigger Shop).  And there are other deaths.

It all comes together when the woman who survived the attack gets together with a man she meets in Dreamthorp.  A friend and neighbor convinces him he knows what might be happening in Dreamthorp.  They try to end the killings there, but the serial killer looking for the woman shows up in Dreamthorp to finish the job.

The last pages are real page-turners.  I couldn't read fast enough.


  1. I would have read it too as I can't resist books with familiar settings. I suppose it's good to move out of your reading comfort zone every now and again.

    1. Familiarity with the place made it a lot of fun. I don't know, though, if I'll be looking over my shoulder the next time I go there!

  2. How cool about the author and even more fun that you know the place it is set even if it is fictionalized. That you liked it is icing on the cake!

    1. I know. I was a little surprised that I enjoyed the book, just because it's not usually the kind I read.