“Accessible and entertaining horror … the Sisters of Slaughter haven’t finished with the residents of Twin Lakes. And neither have we.”
2018 has been a very productive year for Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza, aka The Sisters of Slaughter. As well as working all year on Serial Box’s Silverwood: The Door with Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar and Stephen Kozeniewski, they released novel Kingdom of Teeth through Eraserhead Press in April, a standalone short, We Walk Among You, through Darker World Publishing in July and contributed to anthology Splatterpunk Forever from the Splatterpunk Zine in November. They also found the time to create a new world in Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires, a world that warrants exploring.
Welcome to Twin Lakes, a small town in the Pacific Northwest which, on the surface, looks like any other; surrounded by forests, local businesses, friendly locals. But, if you look a little deeper, things are much more mysterious. A shadowy group known only as “The Ancestors” have a connection with the town founders and influence everything that happens in the town, from the Mayor’s office to law enforcement. Despite this, the non-supernatural inhabitants of the town live a happy and prosperous life in Twin Lakes while The Ancestors maintain a status quo.
But the happy equilibrium is threatened by the appearance of a serial killer preying on young women and sacrificing them in strange rituals to honour a dark force long thought defeated. When the killer makes the mistake of allowing his latest intended victim to escape, it sets in motion the events of the story that will lead to a fight for the future of the town between the forces of darkness and light.
For the most part, the characters are well fleshed-out. There is a large cast for such a short book, with The Ancestors, the local law enforcement, the “civilians”, the survivor and the killer all requiring their own space and back-stories. The book can feel a little crammed at times, with so many characters and threads. And some of the characters do stand out more than others, especially police officers Linda and Earl. But it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the story. Wishing for more of something is usually a good sign, and there is definitely scope for more stories to take place in mysterious Twin Lakes in the future.
The mystery surrounding the identity of the killer and the influence and nature of the underlying dark presence is handled very well. Although the character development and story of the town could have been expanded, the pacing of the story is very good. Measured, rather than break-neck, the revelations keep the reader turning the pages, eager to discover the truth. The horrific visuals are also handled well. Sure, there are some gruesome scenes, given the nature of the serial killer’s modus operandi. But it is never over-the-top or gratuitous.
Autumn Fires is accessible and entertaining horror with elements of mystery and small-town life. The premise of the plot and the mythology of the town make for fertile ground. It is packed with mostly compelling characters and, although it seems under-developed in some areas, there is more than enough here to suggest that the Sisters of Slaughter haven’t finished with the residents of Twin Lakes. And neither have we.
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Paperback: 236 (pps)
Release Date: 30 September 2018
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