Wednesday 3 August 2016

REVIEW: Jeffery X Martin - Hunting Witches: An Elders Keep Novel

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Shadow Work Publishing
Publication Date: 15th July 2016
Pages: 186


A copy of Hunting Witches was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Jeffery X Martin in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Shadow Work Publishing.

The above is sort of true. Mr Martin actually won the author’s part of the writing competition during the Confessions First birthday party. Part of his prize was some blog time which, luckily for me, has included this review. I will hold my hand up and admit to the fact that the only thing I have read of his previously was the story he entered in the competition. I loved it so much though that I just had to do this. It’s very exciting when someone gets me totally interested in their writing in a one hundred word short.

This is what I thought of Hunting Witches.

Elders Keep is a place of secrets. Secrets so old and secrets so vicious that many of its districts lay empty, people are simply too afraid to live there.
Mark and Nika Pendleton have recently moved to the area after Mark landed a dream job. They know there is something strange there, but it doesn’t seem to put them off moving to the area.

They should have paid attention to the signs. They should have stayed where they were. The people of Elders Keep are hunting witches and they have Mark and Nika in their sights.

I have mentioned them before and they are of course the main characters in this story. Mark and Nika are a young married couple deeply in love. Being an inter-racial couple living in the south proves the point that they are totally devoted to each other and like to see themselves as strong in their personal and professional lives.

The local Sherriff, Graham Strahan and his Deputy, Kevin Moon are the only law enforcement in the area. The Sherriff knows there are secrets, but the Deputy doesn’t. As characters, they must obviously work as a team and believe me, they work together fantastically well. There is a certain chemistry between them that is serious at times and funny at times and makes for wonderful reading. You know they are going to stick together no matter what, but at the same time always have a little bit of conflict.

The nasty people in this tale would be Rafferty, Pastor Edwards and Penny. They are a very mixed bunch and I cannot tell you too much about them or I will give some of the plot away. Rafferty is just pure nasty. Edwards is not what you would think. Penny is probably very naive and easily led but has a very dark streak running through her.

The plot? The easy part is that Elders Keep is a weird place. You know there is something wrong there. You just don’t know what. Obviously when Mark and Nika move there, strange things start to happen to them. That’s it. I cannot possibly give you anymore. Trust me though, you will want to explore this book further to find out exactly what those strange things are and why they are happening.

This book could fall under many categories. It is horror, there is no doubt about that. It is also supernatural to a point, paranormal to a point. It has the feel of an old film about a cult or a town with a population that has been brainwashed into believing that something ancient and evil is still around in today’s time, and must be defeated by any means possible. I would go so far as to say that this one is more 70’s horror than the 80’s pulpy stuff we love so well. This has a more Amityville feel. It’s an atmosphere that stinks of flared trousers and men with long hair and women with hair like a pair of curtains. It has an aura of small town everything where everyone knows each other and nothing is done without the whole town knowing. At the same time though, evil is everywhere. It hides in the shadows and everyone knows it is there but can do nothing about it.

Jeffery X Martin is, quite simply, a fantastic writer. The thing that struck me with the short piece he wrote for the competition was how effective he was at getting across a feeling or an emotion or sight or smell in very few words. He does exactly the same thing in Hunting Witches. This story is raw at times. So raw in fact that it feels very basic. Until the weaving of the web begins and the story starts to take shape and you suddenly sit up and think, hang on, this is getting interesting. From that point you won’t want to put it down.

The style is not conventional either but it is so effective in how it breaks the story up and brings it all back together again to give you the perfect overall picture of the events unfolding. It describes the same scenes from various people’s perspectives. At the start of this you will be thinking I have just read about this part, why am I reading about it again. That will all become very clear and trust me again you will love how it all comes together.

Another thing that Mr Martin does very effectively is drag you deep into the story then fire something out at you that was so unexpected you will find yourself reading the same passage a few times to confirm you were right. His characters don’t necessarily get what you would expect them to get in a story like this. It’s not all fairy tales and happy endings. You may be rooting for one person and discover that….well….not telling you but it will hit you like a smack in the face with a wet fish and you will close the book disappointed that Mr Martin has teased you, then stopped. But you will be begging for more.

To summarise: an old time witch hunting story reminiscent of times in ancient history with a modern feel to it. It has scary parts and humorous parts. It has plenty of blood and guts when you want it. It is filled with emotion and a tale that will totally draw you into every printed word.

General rating:

★★★★★ loved the old skool feeling to this.

Horror rating:

★★★★★ creepy as hell.

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy Hunting Witches or any other books from X. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.


Book Synopsis:

Mark and Nika Pendleton have just moved into the small town of Elders Keep. But the presence of the newcomers has awakened the evil that lives in the forest. Now, the Pendletons are in more danger than they've ever known as forces beyond their comprehension conspire against them. Pray for the Pendletons before it's too late.

Please call me X. Everyone does.

When I was a kid, fourth grade, to be exact, I wrote a horror story for a class assignment. It was so good, they called my mother in to the office for a conference on a day when school was closed for students. The fourth grade teachers and the school principal wanted to have me evaluated by a psychologist. The school staff couldn't figure out why I would want to write a story that was violent or had frightening images. Why wasn't it football, puppies and rainbows?

I wasn't that kind of kid. My mother knew that. And she promptly told those teachers, the principal (and that horrible school secretary, the one who looked like a Raggedy Ann doll, possessed by Pazuzu) and anyone else within earshot to go f**k themselves.

I still write scary stories. It's my job. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.

And for more about X, visit his site or find him on social media:

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