Blackwater Lights by Michael M. Hughes

Michael M. Hughes’s Blackwater Lights combines the eldritch horror of H. P. Lovecraft with the supernatural thrills of Dean Koontz.

When Ray Simon receives a desperate call from his childhood friend Kevin, begging him to come 17736849visit, Ray can’t say no. Kevin promises to clue him in on shocking discoveries he has made about weird, half-forgotten events in their past—events associated with a summer camp near Kevin’s home in the small town of Blackwater, West Virginia.

But when Ray arrives, Kevin is nowhere to be found. So Ray does some investigating of his own, only to find that no records exist of the camp. Yet he is not alone in looking for information. There are Lily, a beautiful redhead with uncanny seductive powers; Crawford, a wealthy collector of art and people; and Micah, the mysterious leader of the Church of the Open Door. All of them are seeking information about the rumored camp. And they are all interested—very interested—in Ray.

Then a midnight encounter with strange floating lights sparks a return of old memories—vivid but fractured images that haunt Ray’s waking hours with intimations of terror and cruelty. Something dreadful happened at that camp long ago. Something was awakened there. Now, with the help of his new friend Ellen, a waitress at the local diner, Ray must navigate a path through madness and murder—a path that leads inexorably to an all-but-forgotten night in his childhood . . . and to a future of unimaginable horror. –

Well….some things I liked and some I didn’t.  Ray was a great protagonist – school teacher, fresh out of a relationship, and trying to do right by coming to the aid of his childhood friend.  I liked Ray, but he seemed a little too gullible at times.  Kevin is desperate for Ray to come visit and has new information about a childhood trauma they both experienced, but when Ray arrives, Kevin is gone for several days, leaving a note telling him he’ll return as soon as possible.  And Ray just….accepts this.  Some of Ray’s other actions I also questioned, but don’t want to give any spoilers.

The setting added to the mystery – small, secluded town in WV, a house in the mountains with no neighbors, and colorful characters whose trustworthiness is questionable.  Growing up in WV, I could identify with some aspects of the story and think I may have met some of these characters before.

There were some pretty graphic scenes in this book, but I felt like they were essential to the plot and not for shock value.  The final 50+ pages were especially gripping and several times I found myself thinking, ‘Well, there’s no way Ray is getting out of this situation.’

This was a quick read and the writing flowed well, but if you’re not a horror or darker thriller fan, maybe just looking to try something new, this may not be the book for you.

This review is based on a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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