by Sarah Pinborough
Review by Harriet Klausner
Leisure Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780843960525
Date: July 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Tower Hill looks like freedom and paradise to freshman students and roommates Liz and Steve; they consider themselves lucky that the university has accepted them. There are other new people in town too. Jack is posing as Father O'Brien, the new priest who had been expected. Jack killed the real priest with the help of his friend Gray Kenyon. Both men are psychopath con men, murderers and mercenaries who have traveled in time and distance to this small Maine town. Grey is a teacher at the university and hosts a group study for students who want to learn about the paranormal.
These men have plans for this college town that began years ago in a cave in Afghanistan where they found a chest filled with papers which led them on a journey that ended here. They seek two objects, with Jack finding his first. It is a box containing a parchment and a desecrated twig. The next time he opens the box he finds an apple inside with a note saying "eat me". Jack also locates the red stone meant for Grey. When Gray touches it, the stone turns into a snake and merges with the necklace he wears around his neck. It then enters his body. Both men are changing becoming more and less human. They begin to convert the townsfolk into mindless enslaved zombies controlled by them. Jack accomplishes much of this due to his priestly persona in which he "drugged" the communion wafers and wine; Grey works the students in his study group.
Liz and Steve notice what is happening and that it's spreading rapidly throughout Tower Hill. They eventually realize something supernatural is occurring and that it is up to them to stop and reverse the incursion. But neither has any earthly idea how.
Sarah Pinborough has written a chilling horror tale that mesmerizes readers with its emphasis on the nature of human and supernatural evil. Surprisingly, the thriller centers more on the activities and desires of the malevolent antagonists rather than the usual focus on the heroes efforts to counter the evil that has been and is being done. Thus the audience gets to know Jack and Gray more so than Liz and Steve; we learn what motivates these nasty soulless ones and what are their ultimate goals and short term objectives in Tower Hill. This, in a macabre way, puts a fascinating human face on 200 proof evil. Paradoxically, they are also somewhat esoteric as their thoughts are logical but perverse making it difficult to comprehend who (and perhaps what) they really are. Simply put they own the novel.
Readers do get to know the heroes; albeit a bit less than the villains. Liz has split from her fundamentalist religious family choosing for instance to attend a secular college away from their influence to mostly determine what she believes in or not. As she tries to find herself and her beliefs, Liz ironically ends up the middle of the ultimate religious-like confrontation. Steve is the least known; as his past is somewhat shrouded, which makes him a bit mysterious. The questioning by Liz and Steve of what is going on in town and at school is cleverly done to show the subtle shift in the pair's conclusions. Like the brave duo, readers will wonder what Gray and Jack want to achieve, but even with clues generously sprinkled throughout the exciting story line, most if not all of the audience will fail to guess what their end state outcome is; hell even the wicked duo don't truly know. Fans of Edward lee and Bentley Little will relish Tower Hill, a chiller that will raise electric bills as the lights will remain on at night. Ms. Pinborough merges mystery, horror and fantasy into a powerful unique thriller.