I haven’t picked up a thriller in a while.
I snagged a copy of Kind Nepenthe after checking out some reviews and having a quick back-and-forth with author Matthew V. Brockmeyer on Twitter. I was interested in the idea of a supernatural horror story that is based in part on true events.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Kind Nepenthe follows the story of Rebecca, a California post-hippy, who lives in a remote Northern California mountain town along with her daughter Megan and boyfriend Calendula. The three of them are roped into running a marijuana growing operation “off the grid” for an unscrupulous drug dealer named Coyote. This particular area is named “Homicide Hill” which is a not-so-subtle reference to some terrible events in its checkered past.
On another part of the mountain, a meth dealer named “Diesel Dan” is trying to straighten his life out while expecting his first grandchild. Circumstances involving his son DJ, and DJ’s girlfriend Katie, make this more difficult than he’d like though.
Throughout the story, there are strands of the supernatural at play. Brockmeyer teases visions and interactions with ghosts, so the characters aren’t sure if the place is haunted or whether they are going crazy from isolation and drugs.
Kind Nepenthe is a slow burn. It’s plot unfolds at a very leisurely pace, and gives you a large amount of backstory for almost the entire cast. While this is great for character development and realism, I can see some readers being put off by the lack of consistent action. The real meat of the conflict is in the third act, but it takes a while to get there. Plus, the first two acts imply a major conflict between the two casts of characters, which ultimately never happens, as the ending veers off into a different and unexpected direction.
Kind Nepenthe is well written tale of horror and suspense, with a very interesting setting. If you enjoyed The Shining or Mr. Splitfoot then you should probably check it out.
What I Liked:
- Strong character development
- Interesting setting and backdrop
- Some well-placed literary horror references
What I Didn’t Like:
- Pacing could have been better
- No major conflict between the main characters seemed like a missed opportunity
- The ending is very quick and relies on Epilogue