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When Alex Foster accepted the caregiver position with the eccentric Nox family, she was issued a single rule. Don’t wander past the creek. Alex isn’t interested in exploring the Nox’s vast wooded property. After escaping an abusive past, her sole focus is building a safe future for herself and her unborn baby. Except, a series of chilling events threatens her happily-ever-after. Now, she must fight to survive an ancient evil before all hope is lost. There’s something beyond the creek, and it’s hungry.
Nico Bell’s novella Beyond the Creek is a tale of two halves. The first half we are introduced to a situation that feels very much like traditional gothic horror. A woman, Amy, takes a job at an old mansion being the caretaker of Phillip Nox, a stubborn old man who has had a series of strokes. The house is creepy, the rest of the family is standoffish and unpleasant, and we are led in a direction that we have seen before. The way that Nico Bell builds the characters and the scenes keeps us engaged and entangled in the story. We really care about the characters, particularly about Amy who is running from a traumatic situation, pregnant with an abuser’s baby, doing her best to survive while staying hidden. This job for the Nox family is important and dire for her, so we feel her anxiety and fear when things are not going good with her relationship with the rest of the family.
Halfway through the novella, everything changes completely, and this turns from a spooky gothic horror novella into a pure horror novella. We are so engaged in the story by this time that there is no way we can put the book down. The action is quick and sharp, and we are gripped with same horror that Amy is facing.
There are certain themes in this novella that make me understand the choices that the characters make. Sometimes I read or watch horror and think, “Why is this character even involved? Why don’t they just run off and live the rest of their life?” Nico Bell really gives good reasons why Amy wants to stay and fight the horrors that await her at Nox House. There are themes of abuse, and these themes are so intertwine with the decisions the characters make. Everything action makes sense. I do not think that every author spends time with the “why” of the characters motivations as much as they should. Beyond the Creek is a fantastic example of writing characters who are fully developed with honest motivations and believable choices when confronted by some serious life and death horror. Nico Bell’s writing and storytelling should not be missed.