by Sherrill Wark

Book Cover: Graven Images

Paranormal Horror. Death without cause is strange enough on its own, but three deaths separated over 39 years and with no decomposition in any of the bodies sends Shaw Falls into a turmoil. A skeptical chief of police seeks the aid of a psychic while an uptight minister and an eccentric old lady neighbor team up to send a diabolical creature back to the hell it slithered in from.

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Excerpt:

Holstering his hammer in the tool-loop of his overalls, the man struggled to his feet and brushed his knees with thick, gnarled hands. In the cloistered silence at the edge of the extensive clearing that he and Margaret had wrested from the surrounding acres of virgin forest and glacier-raped rock, he spoke softly.

“You died peaceful enough, Margaret. There’s the Lord to thank for that. It’s but the manner of your dyin’ that was queer: Gettin’ sleepy. Feelin’ queasy. Talkin’ of shadow shapes, stone tunnels, strange lights and all. You said there weren’t no angels singin’. But did you see Jesus, Margaret? You hadn’t time to tell me even if that been the case. I hope you seen Him. Lord. I pray you seen Him. And I pray you’ll rest in peace, but…”

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The man turned away from the smooth mound of freshly disturbed earth and the rough, wooden cross that stabbed the heart of it. Stiffly, he shuffled into the nearest one of dozens of curving step-stone paths that meandered prettily through almost half an acre of herbs, flowers, vegetables and berry bushes.

Amid the waist-high coneflower, beebalm, horehound, and summer savoury, the man paused, and without turning around, said: “I also pray that you and the Lord can forgive me for what I done.”

He continued along the herb-lined path to the house that he and Margaret had built together, stone by stone. He stopped at the back door. His shoulders sighed once.

He went inside.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite wrote:

"Graven Images is a horror novel written by Sherrill Wark. Shaw Falls Police Chief Steve Simpson has a mystery on his hands—three bodies’ worth of mystery. They were all discovered in a fairy tale-like stone cottage hidden on the old Graham property. No one went there anymore, even old Bessie Graham who has the reputation in town for being a black witch. Two of those bodies were long dead: the elderly man’s body had been there for decades, while the young girl only a number of years. They might never have been found at all as the cottage was so well hidden except for the adventure and dare of the three young boys who decided to go on a camping trip in the woods. The Collins brothers had slept outside the cottage, while Joey Melzik had brought his sleeping bag inside and camped in the summer kitchen. In the morning, Eddy and Ricky were horrified when they were unable to wake up their friend. Ricky would later tell investigators that Joey had tried to leave the house at one point in the night and was complaining that he felt dizzy, but the other boys persuaded him to stay the night. Simpson and his sergeant, Gary Murphy, had never seen anything like that little cottage. The walls inside were filled with elaborate, lifelike, and oddly troubling carvings hewn out of black walnut. The three bodies were perfectly preserved albeit thickly covered with dust. Searching the building, they discovered countless bodies of small animals and insects that were likewise untouched by rot or putrefaction. And only those carvings remained free of the dust that filtered through the air and layered itself inside the cottage. Murphy and Simpson could feel the sheer dread and wrongness emanating from inside that cottage, and a strange sense of lassitude. Relief surged through them as they breathed the outside air again. What had happened to those people and Joey, and would it happen again?

Sherrill Wark’s horror novel, Graven Images, blends a paranormal police procedural with one of the most shudder-inducing elder gods stories I’ve run across. Anyone who has ever thrilled to H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of the unearthly elder gods, and the legacy of Cthulhu mythos stories spawned by his creations, will instantly feel that rush of excitement as they begin reading this book. There’s even the epic forbidden tome, the Necronomicon, which resides in the library of parapsychologist Rachel Graye, who together with John, her protege, Miranda Jamieson, the niece of Bessie Graham, and fundamentalist minister, Andrew Coleman, are assisting the police in discovering what is killing people in Shaw Falls and how they can avert an impending catastrophe of earth-shattering significance.

Wark’s team of characters is superbly put together. Watching them work as a team and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses is a joy. While I’m sometimes wary of starting a new horror book and discovering the same old zombies hiding within its pages, I was awed by the original, exciting and very spooky story lurking behind the title Graven Images. Fans of psychological thrillers, dark fantasy, police procedurals and the literary tradition of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos will no doubt find something in this work that makes them smile and keep on reading. I stayed up all night, unwilling to put the book down until I reached the conclusion—and it was well worth the lost hours of sleep. I’d love to see the characters I’ve come to know and admire in future books—they’re just too well-developed not to merit at least another outing, another weird and eldritch mystery to unravel. Graven Images is a classy and original horror novel that delivers high intensity shudders, unearthly horrors and non-stop action. It’s most highly recommended."

Completed on: 12/30/2016
Review Rating: 5 stars

Kayti Nika Raet for Readers’ Favorite wrote:

"Graven Images by Sherrill Wark is a horror mystery novel set in a small Canadian town in the mid 1980s. As with most small towns of the genre, their quiet nature is shattered with a sudden rise in gruesome deaths. Beginning with a small child found in an abandoned house, along with two other bodies eerily preserved, Shaw Falls police force soon has their hands full with what is proving to be a very malevolent force. The only way to get rid of it is to employ the help of a band of psychics, given instructions by an eccentric old lady. Along with a reluctant minister, together they team up to send the evil forces back before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed Graven Images by Sherrill Wark. It was fast paced with an interesting premise that had a bit of a Stephen King feel to it. It is primarily horror, but has a lot of small town mystery thrown in as well. The core cast of characters was unique enough to be memorable and sympathetic as the body count rose. I loved how Wark slowly peeled back the layers of the town, revealing the devastating consequences of prejudice, but also the power of love and faith. Graven Images was a fast-paced novel that easily kept my attention, from the first page to the last. With just enough creep factor to have anyone looking over their shoulder at night, Graven Images by Sherrill Wark is a great read for any fan of classic style horror."

Completed on: 12/22/2016
Review Rating: 5 stars!


About the Author

Sherrill Wark is a former editor who designs print/digital books for indie authors. She’s the author of: How to Write a Book: Park It, Get to Work, Transplanted Heads: Your Muse Can’t Write Worth Sh*t, and 90 Steps to the Base Camp of Conscious Awareness (non-fiction); Death in l’Acadie, Refuge in l’Acadie, and Trapped in l’Acadie (the first three of a planned 6-book historical fiction series); Graven Images (fiction); Vivie Goes to Hell in a Hatchback (YA); The Closet Hides a Set of Stairs (poetry). Under her pseudonym Christina Crowe, she has published A Girl Dog’s Breakfast, scary stories and rude poems and The Unkindest Cut: Short Creepy Movie Scripts.