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Essex by Victor Allen
Review by Carlton Rolle
This novel centers on a location known as Essex. This place is nestled inside a valley in western North Carolina. Effectively separated from the present times, Essex was originally the location of a mining camp. As time continued, issues begin to arise and people thought the place to be haunted. Eventually the area was abandoned and new people took up residence in the area.
The eerie energy comes from a malevolent spirit known as a Wendigo. This spirit engulfs people with madness or death. Inhabitants of Essex were lost to the madness. They had dirty tangled hair, Members filled their teeth to points and wore all black clothing garments; some of them were made of skin. Residents became hunters of humans and used all portions of the body. They were a basic village of cannibals.
Police officers stumbled into the area. They were killed by residents and used the body parts for various reasons. Upon discovering the site, a group of officers came to the village and killed most of the people that were there. Whoever wasn’t killed was captured and taken to a makeshift facility to assess them. When police officials of the case realized that the people wouldn’t be able to re-adapt to life, they were killed. All of the inhabitants of Essex were killed and buried in the village as a cover up. The officers involved in the massacre of the village either died within several months of the incident or carried the madness brought on by the Wendigo with them.
Many years later, a television producer named Austin Jenkins purchased the deed to Essex. While hearing rumors of being haunted, he pitched a reality TV show following the life of a family living in a house built in the area. Upon entering Essex, camera crew and workmen experienced the hauntings. There were accidents, video recordings, audio files of ghosts.
Casted for the show was Johanna, Bobby, and Alice. Each of whom were working on their own internal issues while trying to be a family. Johanna suffered from multiple injuries sustained in a car accident years back. Her son Bobby wants to attend college and take up a career as a movie producer. Alice was adopted by the family and looking to escape a dark past. The family is strained further by the recent murder of Johanna’s husband Collin. The prime suspect in the case is Alice’s father, Tommy. With little to financially lose and much to gain, the family moved into the built house. Shortly after moving in the Wendigo and spirits of Essex make themselves known to the family. It influences them to further fall into madness.
I thought this was an interesting novel. It created a linage to be able to understand the hauntings of Essex. The novel built towards the major events throughout the years leading up the most recent case in the area. The way Allen wrote the story made some of the scenarios truly come alive. One aspect that I would’ve liked to have expanded in the novel was from the residents of Essex itself. The book’s narrative, while from multiple perspectives were all outsiders’ sparse interactions with the community. That would’ve added further to the ghastliness of Essex if readers had more details about the inhabitants of Essex.
The story left room for twists in the narrative. Until the last page, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. Allen brought to life the hauntings of a place that is sure to follow me around for the next couple of weeks. If ever I find myself staring face-to-face with the Wendigo, surely I’ll know to expect madness to set in. Until then, the blood soaked land of Essex will remain imprinted in my mind.