by Alex Irvine
Cover Artist: Ben Baldwin
Review by Gayle Surrette
PS Publishing ISBN/ITEM#: 9781906301392
Date: 08 April 2009
Mystery Hill is a roadside attraction. You know the type, the ones you see on the side of the road when you drive the blue highways. Ken Kassarijian bought the attraction after he got home from the Vietnam War. Mystery Hill has water running uphill and a miniature golf course. It also has teenagers pogo-jumping on the 17th hole while chanting, debunkers trying to prove it's a hoax, and true believers trying to convince Ken that he's got a mystical site of power or an alien landing site. Of course, there's the ones who are convinced Ken is an alien, a reptilian. But, Ken's happy and enjoying the weirdness -- even the strange turtles without shells that are showing up in the woods. Or he was enjoying it until Fara Oussemitski, physicist, showed up with lots of equipment and a few theories. Things are getting very strange indeed.
Irvine manages to pack a lot into this novella -- drugs, conspiracy theories, budding romance, surly teens, a redneck moonshiner, gravitational anomalies, fishing, employee relations -- along with a well crafted story that will keep you chuckling and wonder "what if.."
Mystery Hill was a big surprise. I didn't know what to expect but the characters, especially Ken, our protagonist, was well drawn and about as down to earth as you could be. He's not the type of man you'd expect to wonder about the possibility that the reptilian turtle things without shells might be aliens. The people who show up at Mystery Hill are just about what you'd expect if you've ever stopped into one of these roadside gems. Not only that, but the dialog was crisp, witty, intelligent, plausible, and sharp enough to cut at times -- and individualized for each speaker.
I was totally entertained and charmed by the story. I certainly will keep Alex Irvine on my to be looked for list for future reading. If you haven't read his work before give Mystery Hill a try.