Review: A God In The Shed by J-F. Dubeau
“Saint-Ferdinand. Home of the Saint-Ferdinand Killer. A monster with a reign of terror stretching back almost two decades...Here, the boogeyman was real.”
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
The small Canadian town where this tale of monsters, ghosts, and magic takes place, is far from what you would call “quaint”. Despite having been plagued for years by a murderous force, the families that have lived there for generations remain, perhaps with hope that the serial killer inciting fear through citizens of all ages will soon be caught. The story opens with that just happening. An old man, living alone in the woods, is put in the town’s jail, and there are sighs of relief throughout Saint-Ferdinand. But the killings don’t stop. Because, well, that wouldn’t for a good story, now, would it?
“Nothing and no one can be in the presence of a god and remain the same. That knife, your shed…you.”
From there, I was pleasantly drug through scenes of suspense, gore, and mystery, told through many different perspectives of the town’s inhabitants. Our main characters are Stephen Crowley, the small police force’s head inspector; Venus, technology wiz teen, daughter to laughable hippie parents; and Randy McKenzie, a local doctor, and as we learn early on, a dabbler of dark magic. Though we see the story mostly through the eyes of these three characters, there are about a dozen we switch to and from. But I was never lost for more than maybe a few pages.
Dubeau leads us through multiple POVs, a la the king of many characters, George RR Martin. Similar to Martin's brutal style, sometime we meet a new character, only to have the short chapter end with their gruesome demise. It's the perfect example of showing, not telling, and it adds much diversity to an otherwise mostly linear story line.
The writing was just what it needed to be: flowing smoothly, rarely dragging, if at all. Leading up to the climax seemed to take too long for my liking, but there are many pieces of this complicated puzzle that needed to be explained. Almost every character and story arc had a meaningful purpose, leading up to the bloody and action packed conclusion. The last few pages, my eyeballs were all but bulging out of my head, and my mouth agape.
Dubeau has somehow quietly snuck up in the publishing world, with much promise ahead of him. He has been hailed as “the next Stephen King”, which shouldn’t be thrown about so lightly, but it’s almost believable. To me, though, this novel felt more to me as if Clive Barker had written the TV series Stranger Things:
Creepy monster from the shadow realm, check.
A group of teens somehow three steps ahead of the adults on the case, check.
However, there’s a lot more blood and body parts thrown around. A LOT. Oh, and a creepy, old time circus. And some very dark magick.
Somehow, it never feels like too much. It all works. But this dark tale is not for the meek. Even the mundane Dubeau describes with malicious intent: “They left behind a battlefield strewn with the eviscerated bodies of doughnut boxes and the bled-out remains of coffeepots.” Twin Peaks, much?
I’m not a huge fan of horror. I’ll shamelessly admit that this was the first full-length horror novel I’ve ever read. I’ve long avoided the genre, knowing I am easily influenced by everything I read. And I was right. I suffered through nightmares reading this book, and I loved every minute of it.
Keep this one on your radar – rumor is the manuscript has already been bought for a film version, and that there are other books soon to follow. Just don’t read this one while you’re home alone. Or do, for the full experience. I did it. And I survived.
Here are two other stand-out quotes if I haven’t convinced you to read this book already:
“She had danced with a god, allowed it to touch her soul, and she had lived. The feeling had been intoxicating and otherworldy. Whatever the monster was, she had no doubt of its malevolence, the embrace she’d experienced had given her unparalled comfort. The god had known her deepest wish, her need for security, and it had delivered. Even now, knowing she had been in the arms of death, she longed to return.”
"She'd read enough books to know that these sorts of Faustian bargains always came with a price.Nothing came for free. Not without consequence. Before here was a genie, and the shed was its lamp. She'd rubbed the thing three times; maybe it was time to make a wish."
Actual rating: 4.5/5 Stars (It wasn't perfect - I save 5 stars for my favorite books, but I'm rounding up because I REALLY want people to read this.) See this & my other reviews on Goodreads.
*Many thanks for Inkshares and NetGalley for an eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are from the advanced copy, and might not remain the same in the final published version.*