Ah, yes, a coming-of-age story. Is there anything better? The awkward adolescent years. The crushes. Endless summer afternoons down by the water. The religious fanaticism. The…the mutilations. Wait…
Ever since the cover for The Children of Red Peak was revealed, my excitement level for this book was high. I had only read two of Craig DiLouie’s books prior to this, One of Us, and Our War. Both were instant favorites for me, for sure. So, on top of already being excited about The Children of Red Peak, Craig was kind enough to reach out to me via Twitter to see if I’d be interested in receiving an ARC. Sincerest thanks to him, to Orbit/Redhook, and to Ellen Wright for getting this copy into my hands, I was thrilled to get the opportunity!
The Children of Red Peak follows three different POVs, mostly across two different timelines. At the center of the story are David, Deacon, and Beth. They all become childhood friends when their respective families join a religious community, the Family of the Living Spirit. It starts off as a sort of uplifting, righteous place to grow up.
But it soon devolves into a living nightmare. As adults, David, Deacon, and Beth are reunited at the funeral of another childhood friend who has died by suicide. This forces the three of them to confront their own trauma, and to perhaps finally be the ones to solve the so-called Medford Mystery that’s haunted all of them for years.
The Children of Red Peak is very much a slow burn, so don’t go into this one expecting lurid & shocking moments of violence right off the bat. That all comes later. And when it does…goddamn.
So, as I mentioned, the book bounces back and forth between timelines, and I have to confess to greatly preferring the timeline when these characters were kids. I’ll always have major heart eyes for coming-of-age horror, so that element of the book really spoke to me. But in the way DiLouie constructs this story, you can’t have the one without the other. And no two ways about it, each of the three main characters is deeply, possibly irreparably, traumatized by their experience. David cuts himself off emotionally from his wife. Beth is a very heavy drinker. I guess Deacon is probably the only character who deals with his trauma in a positive way, as a songwriter and singer of a band, channeling his experience into his music.
It’s worth mentioning that I did not grow up in a religious household, so religion of any type has never been a part of my life. Something tells me the way this book unfolds will likely feel way more sinister to folks who grew up in a strictly religious family, because, oof. Things get totally out of control in the Family. Fucking yikes.
While this is only the third Craig DiLouie book I’ve read, it’s clear he’s just a phenomenal storyteller. There are certainly elements of horror in both One of Us and Our War, but The Children of Red Peak is the first true horror novel of his I’ve read, and it was a wild ride. This one didn’t destroy me emotionally in the same way that One of Us and Our War did, but for sure, add The Children of Red Peak to your TBR, because spooky season is basically here!