When family man Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler in a gas station parking lot, he has no idea of the chain reaction he's setting in motion. How could he suspect the young mother is part of an ancient fire cult, a sinister group of killers that will destroy anyone who threatens one of its members? When the little boy is placed in a foster home, the young mother burns herself alive in grief and rage...and the cult's fanatics begin their mission of terror as Joe and his family are plagued by otherwise inexplicable events.
One night Joe smells ashes in his daughter's nursery. A kindly old couple whose house Joe renovated is found butchered ritualistically. Pushed to his limit, Joe becomes friends with the local police chief Daryl Copeland, who decides to accompany Joe to the cult's isolated compound, where the chief is murdered and Joe is taken hostage.
Joe awakens in the huge three-story house he has been renovating for a beautiful client and her husband. His lovely client turns out to be the leader of the fire cult. Joe and the little boy he saved are the planned sacrifices of the cult's midsummer ceremony. Joe's wife and some local policemen save Joe, but in a wild shootout the house is set ablaze and the little boy is taken hostage upstairs. Joe is left to do battle against the cult...alone.
What members say
- Chris Miller
A Perfect Novel...
This is the fourth book by Jonathan Janz I've read, and may well take the crown as my personal favorite thus far as I work my way through his bibliography.
THE NIGHTMARE GIRL follows a decent man trying to live and work honestly. He and his wife have a little girl, and lost a son some weeks before delivery to miscarriage. One day, while pumping gas, hell is unleashed on him and his family when he intervenes as a maniacal woman beats on a male toddler, causing not only a scene, but a violent confrontation with the girl and her mother, and several others.
It seems clear cut: the girl was abusing the boy, evidence showed it had been going on for some time, and there were drugs found in the house. The boy is placed with a foster family, and Joe (our hero) begins to visit frequently, growing attached to the boy and toying with the idea of possible adoption.
But NOTHING is what it seems.
After a shocking act, the boy's mother is gone and the grandmother seems to be losing her mind and harassing Joe and his family. Then the nightmares begin and before long, the bodies start to pile up as an unholy coven is uncovered, the members as psychotic as you could possibly imagine.
And so the story unfolds, steadily gaining in momentum and tension to the point that, by the last 100 pages or so, you're constantly squirming and wincing and panting for breath as the action escalates to a fever-pitch of absolute terror and vengeance. I couldn't get enough of this book, and had to stay with it to see what would happen next. Janz may not be a household name right now, but he should be. He is every bit as good as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Robert McCammon, Ray Garton, Brian Keene, and all the other mainstays of modern horror. In fact, I'd argue he's better than some of them as well. His writing is tight, his prose elegant, his dialogue on point, and his plots believable and engaging, just like his characters. This was as close to a perfect horror novel as I have ever read.
Janz has a unique talent for writing horror sequences, too. I have to point this out because with most writers, the situation may be scary, but the book itself or the writing really isn't. Maybe it's exciting, but you're never really scared. But Janz will scare you. The scene in this novel when he goes to the foster parent's house for the last time...I won't spoil it, but I WILL say I was fucking terrified. THAT is awesome writing, period.
So...yeah, I loved it. And if you like horror with depth of both story and character, so will you. I said it before in this review, but it bears repeating: This is as close to perfect as any horror novel I've ever read, and I have LITERALLY never been this satisfied before after reading book, save for MAYBE the first time I read THE SHINING. Yeah, this is in the same league. No, to hell with that, it sets the STANDARD in the league.
THE NIGHTMARE GIRL is NOT to be missed.