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Book Review: We Came Back by Patrick Lacey

We Came Back is another step in the right direction for Lacey’s writing career and we look forward to visiting his sinister imagination again in the future.”

 

Patrick Lacey is a relative newcomer to the world of publishing and the horror genre. Although he has admitted to writing over one hundred short stories and four novels before submitting anything for publication, since his first short story was published in 2012, over two dozen of his short stories have found homes at various venues. His books to date include A Debt to be Paid (Samhain Publishing, 2015), the short story collection, Sleep Paralysis (Great Old Ones Publishing, 2016) and Dream Woods (Sinister Grin Press, 2016). Sinister Grin and Lacey appear to be a perfect fit for each other as the publisher also released this, his latest book.

After a heartfelt dedication to his father (Lacey has donated all personal proceeds from the sale of We Came Back to a cancer charity in his honour), we are immediately introduced to the darkness that lies beneath the streets of Lynnwood. Lacey does a good job of describing the dark presence without giving too much away too soon. The author gradually brings the darkness into the story by the way it begins to feed on the teenage population of the town, beginning with Vickie, a high-achiever from a family of demanding high-achievers. It infects Vickie before moving on to high school quarterback Tom and National Honor Society members Angie and Carlos. It seems to only target the popular kids or the over-achievers, the kind of kids that would look down their noses at lesser students or ignore them altogether.

All of this doesn’t go unnoticed by the faculty of the high school, primarily History teacher Frank Tanner. We see a large portion of the story through his eyes as he struggles to deal with the cultish “Lynnwood Vampires”, a name the affected kids wear like a badge of honor. But Frank has more problems, what with his own teenage daughter’s sudden taste for mysterious “bad boy” Busty Brown, his grief over the son he lost nearly ten years before, and his daughter’s ex-boyfriend who lives next door and who can’t seem to get over the break-up. Indeed, Justin comes across as quite an intense character at first, seemingly stalking Alyssa by watching her from his bedroom window all of the time. But it soon becomes clear that, while dealing with his own grief over the death of his father, he never truly understood why Alyssa broke up with him. Most of us can relate to teenage angst, and this helps us to understand Justin’s character.

The main theme explored in the book is loss. The Tanner’s are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of Jeremy. Justin can’t get over Alyssa Tanner’s rejection, coming so soon after the death of his father. The scenes where Lacey explores the raw emotion of these characters, whether it is Frank’s wife and daughter trying to convince Frank to let go of some of the emotional baggage he has carried since Jeremy passed, or Justin recounting the terrible details of watching his father struggle for life while confined to their couch, are some of the best in the book. They give the characters an emotional depth and reality that allow the reader to relate.

The threads of the story begin to come together as the disturbing change in behaviour of the Lynnwood Vampires and unusual and horrific events become more frequent, building to a violent and unsettling climax. The true origin of the darkness that lives in the earth beneath the town is gradually drawn out, and we realise that Frank is more key to the plans of the darkness than we first thought, thanks to a traumatic event that is becoming ever more present in the real world. We then learn that the darkness has a specific punishment in mind for Frank, beyond its intentions towards the town.

As with his previous novel, Dream Woods, Lacey crafts an entertaining slice of small town American horror. He takes elements that we find safe and normal, and seeks to subvert them with creepy and, often, bloody scenes. His descriptions of the horrific darkness, when it finally takes form, are well done and his depiction of the main characters are generally very good. There are one or two minor errors that briefly took us out of the moment but, overall, We Came Back is another step in the right direction for Lacey’s writing career and we look forward to visiting his sinister imagination again in the future.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Paperback: (366 pp)
Release Date: 15 April 2017

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