12 YEARS AGO
Janet Martlee’s infant son died under mysterious circumstances.
Consumed with grief and anger, she ran away to start again…
A 12-year old boy with dead eyes appeared in her classroom,
begging for help. But Janet doesn’t believe in ghosts…
Her psychiatrist tells her she must return home to confront
her past and uncover the mystery of what happened…
Only some questions don’t want to be answered.
And some answers hide in the shadows…
Coffin Shadows is one of those books that prove that good horror can come in a small package. The official page count is 126, but that seems a little generous. The truth is that this novella can be read comfortably in one sitting, preferably on a rainy afternoon, but the story feels like it will be in my mind for a long time. Coffin Shadows starts with Janet, pregnant with her boyfriend, Brian’s, baby, working at a private school. She starts seeing a dead boy in a red jacket, asking for her help. The writing is so good, the tension and reactions that Janet feels so real that the book pulls the reader deep into the story within a few pages.
Janet’s therapist thinks that this boy is the manifestation of the son that she had when she was a teenager, a son that died in a car wreck with Janet at the wheel, an accident she really does not remember. Her therapist thinks it is best to go back to the town she fled, to patch things up with her family and clarify her memories of what happened to her son. We learn quickly that the small town has many secrets that Janet needs to be uncovered.
There are so many elements that make this a great horror story. From the apparition begging for help, to the old burned out mansion she finds on her parent’s old property, to the secrets and lies that her town feeds her, there are so many classic horror plots wrapped into one great story. And it moves so fast that it does not bog itself down. I can see this being written by someone else as a 600 or 700 page book, a long saga that would take weeks to read. As it is, the speed of this book is really a bonus. It allows the story to really pack a punch. The only thing that I wish could have been done a little differently is that the kid in the red jacket does not appear again when she goes back to the town of her youth. I would have liked him to continue to be part of the story, since he was the catalyst that made her pursue the truth in the first place. Other than this small piece, Coffin Shadows is a perfect story. To be able to do so many things without slacking on the character development and the storytelling really makes this novella a treasure.